Science Speaks - Blog by ISAAA

Filipino Research Shows Environmental Impacts of Bt Eggplant

By Frederic Carl B. Sambrano
May 12, 2021

Eggplant is one of the most valued vegetable crops in the Philippines. It constitutes one third of the total volume of vegetables produced in the country. The crop suffers tremendous loss against the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB). As a result, farmers tend to rely heavily on chemical insecticides to address this problem which leaves significant amounts of insecticide residues in the soil, water, and crops leading to environmental and health issues. Bt eggplant aims to address this problem by using a natural insecticidal protein from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.

A study in 2011 conducted by Dr. Jinky Leilani Lu, Research Professor at the National Institute of Health, University of the Philippines Manila, revealed that farmers in the largest eggplant-producing area in the Philippines used different kinds of insecticides to control EFSB. Farmers apply insecticides haphazardly and spray for up to 80 times per cropping season. To avoid further health and environmental risks, the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPLB) developed Bt eggplant, an EFSB-resistant eggplant variety expressing the insecticidal protein Cry1Ac. It only affects EFSB and is safe for humans, livestock, and non-target insects. 

Bt eggplant exhibited 98.6-99.3% success rate in preventing shoot damage, 98.1-99.7% in preventing fruit damage, and 95.8-99.3% in reducing larval infestations in a multi-location field study conducted by IPB-UPLB. Bt eggplant has the same gene as Bt cotton that has been approved for food, feed, and processing and has been in the Philippines since 2003.

Study shows that Bt eggplant does not only improve marketable yield and farmers’ income, but also helps minimize health and environmental hazards by reducing the need for insecticide use, thereby lessening the insecticide pollution on the soil, crops, and water source of the farmers. It also promotes ecological balance as Bt eggplant does not pose environmental or health threats. 

To know more about the study and other impacts of Bt eggplant, download and read the book Socioeconomic Impacts of Bt Eggplant: Ex-ante Case Studies in the Philippines or visit the Bt Eggplant Resource page.

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