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Crop Biotech Update

Bt Eggplant Can Help Alleviate Poverty and Improve Environment, Study Shows

November 26, 2010

Bt eggplant can increase farmers' profit, help improve the environment and people's health, and contribute in eradicating poverty. These were the conclusions of the socio-economic studies conducted on the potential benefits and impacts of Bt eggplant by Dr. Sergio Francisco, Chief Science Research Specialist of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice). He presented these results and conclusions in a "Seminar on Biotechnology: Communication and Technology Impact," held on November 23, 2010 at the SM Mall of Asia, Manila, Philippines.

Eggplant is the top vegetable produced and planted in the Philippines. Up to 70 percent loss in eggplant yields have been reported because of the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) infestation. Farmers spray pesticides almost every other day, reaching up to 80 times per cropping season to control the pest. Bt eggplant is a genetically modified vegetable that has been inserted with a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, making it resistant to FSB.

According to Dr. Francisco, once adopted, Bt eggplant could increase the marketable yield by 40 percent, giving an additional income of about Php 50,000. The reduction in the use of pesticides would significantly cut down production cost by 16 percent. In addition, Bt eggplant adoption could lead to tremendous reduction in the negative impact of pesticides to groundwater, to non-target organisms and species biodiversity. He estimated that it could reduce the hazardous effects by about 19.5 percent.

Bt eggplant could also contribute to alleviating poverty: at 50 percent adoption rate, 64 percent of the studied households were found to have "escaped" or were lifted from poverty. Consumers are also expected to benefit for the potential increase in the supply of low-insecticide residue eggplant at lower prices, as well as improve the nutritional status of eggplant consumers. Dr. Francisco emphasized that either delays or restrictions on the adoption of the improved biotech crop would also delay or restrict nutritional improvements among the poor.

The seminar was co-organized by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSPII) and the Southeast Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Biotechnology Information Center as part of the celebration of the 6th Philippine National Biotechnology Week.

For details on the seminar and on biotechnology in the Philippines, contact Jenny Panopio of SEARCA-BIC at jap@agri.searca.org.