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Crop Biotech Update

University of the Philippines Readies Borer-Free Eggplant

September 3, 2010

The University of the Philippines is in high hopes to commercialize its first-ever locally developed genetically modified (GM) eggplant in the next two years once it has passed the rigorous and robust science-based safety assessments set by the Philippine biotech regulatory framework. The fruit and shoot borer-resistant (FSB-R) eggplant, also called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant, being developed by the Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), is currently under multi-location trials in seven sites within the country including Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur, Iloilo, Leyte, Davao City, and Cotabato. The multi-location trial is one of the several levels of safety assessments where the biotech product performance and safety to environment are being evaluated before it undergoes to another series of evaluation prior to commercial release.

According to Dr. Desiree Hautea, FSB-R/Bt eggplant project leader, the development of FSB-R/Bt eggplant in the Philippines started through the granting of royalty-free license to UPLB from the Indian Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Limited (Mahyco), to use its eggplant lines as source of FSB-R trait for the Philippine eggplant variety. Through this public-private partnership, UPLB scientists started the research in 2003 and underwent contained trials in UPLB-IPB, confined field trials in 2007, and now, the current multi-location trial all over the country. The Bureau of Plant Industry from the Department of Agriculture is spearheading the safety assessment of biotech crops under the field trial stage.

The FSB-R/Bt eggplant developed through modern biotechnology, produces a natural protein that makes it resistant to FSB, the major pest problem in eggplant production. "In the Philippines, damage by FSB results in yield losses from 54-70%, and to date, there is no available commercial varieties resistant to this pest. Through the development of FSB-R/Bt eggplant, farmers may double its income by 200 percent and gain an additional of Php 50,000 per hectare of production," said Dr. Hautea. Likewise, she stressed that insecticide application may lessen up to 72 times per season and may decrease spraying that accounts to 24% of production cost.

Eggplant is one of the major vegetable crop in the country in terms of area and volume of production, and small-scale farmers are expected to benefit most from the promising FSB-R/Bt eggplant technology.

 For related information regarding this article, visit University of the Philippines Newsletter at http://www.up.edu.ph/upnewsletter.php?issue=66&i=1209. To learn more about the Bt eggplant project in the Philippines, visit http://isaaa.org/programs/supportprojects/abspii/research/default.asp. For more news updates on biotechnology, visit the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center website at http://www.bic.searca.org/, or e-mail bic@agri.searca.org.