THE Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VICSMin) has expressed its full support for the commercial planting of Bt eggplant in the country.
This came after its officers and members signed a one-page manifesto of support during the roundtable discussion on Bt eggplant held on September 4 in Davao City.
The one-day event was organized by the South East Asia Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center.
VICSMin, with 40 active member institutions and 20 individual farmers, is a nonprofit organization that advocates policies beneficial to the vegetable industry in the region.
"Bt eggplant is a modern variety, genetically modified with high level of resistance against the eggplant fruit and shoot borer developed by the University of the Philippines in Los Banos Institute of Plant Breeding. It has a gene from soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt] that confers insecticidal property," Bt Eggplant study leader Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo said.
After a thorough discussion with scientists and experts from International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) on the science, safety and the potential actual benefits of modern biotechnology, VICSMin in their one-page manifesto said, "We realize that Bt eggplant, which contains the gene similar to the insect-resistant Bt corn, can bring benefits to our communities, such as higher yield and income, reduce chemical use and improve environmental health."
"We believe the Bt eggplant is a healthier and safer alternative solution against the relentless insect-pest—the eggplant fruit and shoot borer," VICSMin added.
VICSMin also recognized that multilocation field trials of Bt eggplant had been approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry, the regulatory arm of the Department of Agriculture as per Administrative Order 8, as part of the regulatory requirement of the said biotech crop, and in accordance with the new joint department circular.
"We recognized the safety of the products of modern biotechnology that have passed food-safety assessment based on international standards, such as the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius Risk Analysis of Food Derived from Modern Biotechnology," VICSMin said.
"It is not enough that we will just keep on whining. Instead, we should be the force that will support this kind of technology, which offer numerous benefits to our farmers, as well as consumers," VICSMin President Gienovivo A. Cajes said.
Cajes said VICSMin, as a leading vegetable farmers' organization in the region, will keep itself updated on science-based and factual information so that they can be partners in policy and decision-making process toward the use of agro-biotechnology to attain food security.
Cajes handed over the document signed by its officers and members to Dr. Randy A. Hautea, global coordinator and Southeast Asia Center director of ISAAA.
"We will also hand over the same document to the Davao City government and the Davao City council," Cajes said.
"If Bangladesh farmers are now planting Bt eggplant, why can't we plant it here in the Philippines? This is the case [when] Filipinos should decide based on scientific evidence instead of misinformation," VICSMin Vice President Roger Gualberto said.
"Why make things difficult for us? I am for this technology and if the seeds are now available, I will immediately plant it in my farm," he added.
Dr. Hautea said the VICSMin's declaration of support will be forwarded to the Department of Agriculture for appropriate action.
"Let us convert opportunities into realities as our collective action will bring our efforts and the Bt eggplant technology forward," he added.