Biotech Updates

Philippines Approves Borer-Resistant Bt Eggplant for Commercial Cultivation

October 26, 2022

Photo Source: College of Agriculture and Food Science, University of the Philippines Los Baños

The Philippines' Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) has given its approval for the commercial cultivation of insect resistant Bt eggplant in the country. The "Biosafety Permit for Commercial Propagation of Bt Eggplant (Event EE-1)" was issued to the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) on October 18, 2022, pursuant to the DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1, Series of 2021. With this approval, the Philippines becomes the second country in the world, after Bangladesh, to allow the commercial propagation of borer-resistant Bt eggplant.

This regulatory approval came after strict and comprehensive biosafety evaluations conducted by the Joint Assessment Group comprised of representatives from Competent National Authorities-Biosafety Committees, and the certification of the Event EE-1 as a Plant Incorporated Protectant (Group 11A Insecticide) by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority. Prior to this approval for commercial propagation, the DA-BPI also approved Bt eggplant for direct use as food, feed, or for processing (21-078FFP) on July 21, 2021, affirming its safety for consumption.

Bt eggplant, an insect resistant crop, contains a natural protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), making it resistant to eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), the crop's most devastating insect pest. This Bt protein is highly specific to EFSB and is safe for humans, animals, and other non-target insects. Various scientific evidence showed that Bt eggplant is safe not only for consumption but also for the environment. A 2016 study in the Philippines on the impact of Bt eggplants on non-target insects revealed that EE-1 eggplant is unlikely to pose greater risks to the environment when planted in open fields, as compared to their non-Bt eggplant counterparts. The study also suggested that Bt eggplant can be an integral component of Integrated Pest Management program, particularly of EFSB, while dramatically reducing the dependence on conventional insecticides.

Previously conducted ex-ante socio-economic studies conducted in the Philippines estimated that the cultivation of Bt eggplant will incur lower production costs and ultimately lead to up to three-fold higher net farm incomes due to the combined effects of significantly reduced pesticide use and increased marketable fruit yields.

For more details, read the news release from the College of Agriculture and Food Science, UPLB.

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