By Mary Grace Padin
Researchers who are working on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant would have to start all over again following the approval of new rules for the study and propagation of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Agriculture Undersecretary Dennis Guerrero told reporters that research on Bt eggplant would need to go back to “square one” as Joint Department Circular (JDC) 1 have put in place new requirements for the approval of GM organisms (GMOs).
“It would need to start again because new requirements were added for each stage of the research. The [JDC] requires step-by-step approval from the regulatory agencies—from clinical or laboratory tests to contained and confined use, to field testing and last, commercial propagation,” Guerrero said.
As for the importation of GM plants and plant products, he said traders now need to declare if their shipments contain GMOs in their application for sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances.
Guerrero added that only approved GM varieties will be allowed to enter the country.
“We have a register of approved transformation events [the genetic or DNA modifications done in an organism]. If your product is included in the list, there is no problem. Otherwise, even if it’s approved elsewhere, it would have to undergo our approval process,” Guerrero said.
JDC 1 outlines the responsibilities of the departments of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Health, Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Interior and Local Government.
A manual of operations, which will include all the guidelines to be followed for all the approval process stated in the circular, is already being crafted by the agencies, Guerrero said. However, he added that the DENR opted to formulate its own administrative order for the environmental risk assessment of GM products.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala made an assurance that the country’s corn and feed milling industries will continue to thrive with the issuance of the JDC.
Alcala said the circular would ensure the stable production of corn. It will also allow traders to continue the importation of GMOs.
The Bt eggplant project in the Philippines is being conducted by the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) of the University of Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), a public-sector research institution with the mandate of developing quality plant varieties for Filipino farmers.
IPB-UPLB employs conventional and modern biotechnology in improving crop varieties. UP is also a known advocate of new and sustainable technologies that are applicable and advantageous in the local agriculture.
Researchers have begun field trials for Bt eggplant when groups such as Greenpeace petitioned the Supreme Court to stop efforts to commercialize the GM crop in 2012.