PAASE urges immediate resumption of R&D on Bt ‘talong’

THE Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) called for the prompt resumption of the research and development of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant under the new guidelines that regulate the research, use and propagation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in
the country.

“We urge all parties involved to take prompt and responsible actions, under Joint Department Circular [JDC] 1, Series of 2016, to implement the resumption and continuation of the research and development and the field testing of Bt talong in the Philippines,” PAASE said in a statement.

JDC 1 provides the new set of guidelines for GMOs jointly implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the departments of Science and Technology, Environment and Natural Resources, Interior and Local Government, and Health.

PAASE also committed to providing expert advice to the
Philippine government, universities and the public on the various phases of the development and use of Bt eggplant in the country.

The group said the growing Bt eggplant is seen to significantly
increase the agricultural productivity of eggplant farmers, as it is resistant to the fruit and shoot borer, a major pest that infests eggplants in the country.

Bt eggplant, the group said, is projected to raise farmers’ income by about P50,000 per hectare.

The group also cited various studies, including the official 2010 European Union report, which said, as of today, there is no scientific evidence associating GM crops with higher risks for the environment and for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.

PAASE said there is an “urgent” need to continue the research and testing of Bt eggplant in the Philippines to generate the necessary empirical data to evaluate its
environmental safety specific to
the country.

“Of the various facets of Bt crops—including agricultural productivity, human safety and food security impact—environmental safety frequently elicits the most concerns and sharp contentions from among opponents of Bt crops,” PAASE said.

“The alarms and concerns stem largely from what remains to be a relatively limited amount of empirical data available to make final and unequivocal conclusions on the environmental biosafety of Bt crops across all known agroecologies,” it added.

With this, PAASE called on the Philippine government, farmers, scientists, academics and other stakeholders to acknowledge the development and testing of Bt eggplant is crucial to provide an effective, safe and sustainable solution to the problems faced by local eggplant growers.

Meanwhile, DA Undersecretary Dennis M. Guerrero said in an earlier interview the research on Bt eggplant would need to go back to “square one,” as JDC 1 has put in place new requirements for the approval of 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 all regulatory agencies—from clinical tests to contained and confined use, to field testing and last, commercial propagation,” he said.

PAASE said eggplant is the leading vegetable crop in the country in terms of volume and area of production and is a valuable source of income for Filipino farmers. The group said eggplant production in the Philippines covers approximately 22,000 hectares, yielding a volume of about 220,000 metric tons (MT) annually, valued at about P2.6 billion.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the country’s eggplant production in 2014 reached 225,578.67 MT, 2.58 percent higher than the previous year’s output of 219,911.06 MT.


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