Bt eggplant dialogue starts biotech drive on GMO ‘war’

  • 20 October 2014, Monday

Source: BusinessMirror
19 Oct 2014

THE Philippine scientific community is battling opponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) head-on by launching its first public dialogue on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant in Los Baños on Tuesday, October 21.

GMO advocates are pushing the commercialization of Bt eggplant and had scored a judicial victory when the Supreme Court allowed the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines to intervene in the Bt eggplant case.

The first round of the case went to the oppositors of Bt eggplant as the Court of Appeals (CA) issued a ban on the testing of Bt eggplant anywhere in the country after the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) had completed the multilocation trials and secured all the necessary scientific data for submission to the government.

On Tuesday the public dialogue will be held from 8 a.m. to noon at the Dioscoro L. Umali Auditorium of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) at the UPLB campus in Los Baños, Laguna.

Searca Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. will deliver the welcome remarks, followed by the opening message of Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas, Searca deputy director for administration.

Saguiguit said the dialogue will help clarify issues raised by the Bt eggplant case even as he noted that traditional eggplant varieties have been generously sprayed with pesticides to ensure higher yield.

He said this is not the case with Bt eggplant, which has the gene needed to produce the toxin that kills the fruit borers on its skin.

This toxin is specific only to the deleterious insects and has no negative effects on humans, Saguiguit said.

With BT eggplant, no application of pesticide is required, assuring consumers that the vegetable they consume is safe.

Plant breeders have said that non-Bt eggplant varieties sustain from 50 percent to 90 percent damage due to the insects that burrow deep into the fruit.

Dr. Emil Q. Javier, academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology, Dr. Calixto Protacio, director of the Crop Science Cluster of the UPLB and Ma. Monina Cecilia Villena of the Searca Biotechnology Information Center (Searca-BIC) will tackle the overview of the dialogue.

Dr. Lourdes Taylo, study leader of the Fruit and Stem Borer Resistant/Bt Eggplant Project of the Institute of Plant Breeding-CSC-UPLB, will discuss “Bt Eggplant and the Science Behind the Technology” from 9:45 a.m. onward.

Along with Taylo, Mario V. Navasero, study leader, Bt Eggplant Project, National Crop Protection Center-Crop Protection, will tackle “Field Testing and Regulatory Processes Undertaken for Bt Eggplant.”

Eggplant is the country’s most consumed vegetable, agriculturists stressed and farmers would earn more if they cultivate Bt eggplant, which has been reinforced with genes that produce toxins against insects and other pests.

Bt is actually a soil bacterium that has been used as an organic pesticide since 1910.