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Crop Biotech Update

Filipino Experts Clear Safety Aspects About Bt Eggplant

February 11, 2011

Agriculture and health experts in the Philippines visited  the University of Southern Mindanao last February 3-4 to explain to the local governments of Davao and Cotabato the safety of the fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt ‘talong' (eggplant) in a forum on "Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture through Crop Biotechnology."  

When it comes to genetically modified foods, all safety aspects or components are characterized, explained Dr. Nina Gloriani, Dean and Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology College of Public Health, University of the Philippines Manila. According to her, "Safety profiles of GM foods [are] well-documented through several scientific studies."

Dr. Saturnina Halos, Chair of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Biotechnology Advisory Team, meanwhile, pointed out that approving Bt eggplant would not be a violation of the Organic Agriculture Act of the country. "They say that farmers should have the right to organic farming. Then, farmers should also have the right to GM-based farming…so, there really should be coexistence. It really depends on the farmer's situation."

Dr. Candida Adalla, Chief of DA-Biotechnology Program Office, said that Filipinos should be thankful for the country's concrete regulatory guideline for GMOs. The DA Administrative Order No. 8, she explained, has been updated in line with the international standards for regulation. "We have to conform, align, and adapt our policies so that our products can be exported and compete in the international market," she explained. On Bt talong, she said that, "When we talk about biotechnology, it should be in the context of technology, in the context of science, not in the context of emotion or prediction."

Meanwhile, University of Southern Mindanao (USM) President Dr. Jesus Antonio Derije called for the university students and professors to hold on the privilege and liberty of the university to implement the trial. "We should be given the right and freedom to find out the truth about their claims," he asked. "We should uphold our right and freedom to conduct research that we know could be beneficial to many people," he said. "USM is here to support activities that we know would be advantageous to the people," he said.

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