Biotech Updates

Philippine Court Orders to Stop Bt Eggplant Field Trials

May 29, 2013

In the Philippines, the Court of Appeals has ruled that the field trials of the pest resistant eggplant expressing a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene should be stopped on the basis of its finding that there is no "full scientific certainty" as to the safety of the trials to human health and the environment.

"Field trials of (Bt eggplant) could not be declared by this Court as safe to human health and to our ecology, with full scientific certainty, it being an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology," according to the appellate court.

The absence of "full scientific certainty" prompted the court to issue a "Writ of Kalikasan" ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other agencies to stop the trials.

A "Writ of Kalikasan" is a legal remedy under Philippine law that may be sought to deal with environmental damage of such magnitude that it threatens life, health, or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.

The government has been conducting field tests for Bt eggplant since 2010 in five locations. A group opposed to these field testings filed a petition for "Writ of Kalikasan" to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued a "Writ of Kalikasan" and remanded the petition to the Court of Appeals for hearings on the scientific and factual questions involved.

Meanwhile, a wave of dissenting reactions to the court ruling is expected in the Philippines and abroad amid the broad scientific consensus that Bt crops are safe and beneficial.

A US-based Filipino scientist expressed that "the court ruling unfortunately dictates that scientific research on Bt (eggplant), and possibly on other new biotech crops, must come to a halt. Our universities may no longer be able to do this vital research and we have deprived ourselves of potentially ground-breaking technology that could have benefited our farmers and our country."

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