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Crop Biotech Update

NAST President and University Chancellor Condemn Attack on Bt Eggplant Field Trial

February 18, 2011

Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) President, and former UP President Dr. Emil Q. Javier; and University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Chancellor Dr. Luis Rey I. Velasco rebuked the unanticipated destruction of the anti-biotech group Greenpeace to the Bt eggplant field trial site in UPLB last February 17, 2011- the first time a research project was assaulted in the more than 100 years history of the revered University's campus. The anti-biotech group Greenpeace forced entry to the field experiment but only succeeded in uprooting more than a hundred non-transgenic eggplants, which served as pollen traps and check varieties (see picture).

"It is a sad day for Philippine science. Misinformed, misguided people are denying our poor farmers and consumers the benefits of good science," said Dr. Javier. He added that the academy denounces and condemns the trespassing, destruction of government property, violation of academic freedom of university, and interference to legitimate activities of the scientific community. He also reaffirmed the academy's "support to the legitimate activity of the scientific community which is consistent with the national policy of the government on the safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology products."

Chancellor Velasco, meanwhile, pointed out that the group's actions were illegal. "The issue is about how members of Greenpeace came here to the University and did things that are unacceptable, morally, ethically, and legally. We are now forced to respond accordingly and take legal action against Greenpeace… The issue now is that these people have violated rules and legal procedures in the University and in the land. Because of their actions, we will have to deal legally with them as an institution," he said. The chancellor also asserted the right to research and called for its respect.

"We expect people who adhere to academic freedom and to science to also have equal respect to people who oppose their ideas. We respect opposing views and the views of Greenpeace. And while we do that, we are still bound by the rules and laws of the land," he said.

Chair of the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office Dr. Candida Adalla also slammed the attack as the Bt eggplant trial has always been compliant to all government guidelines. Dr. Adalla said, "I particularly condemn the uprooting of the Bt plants because that is tantamount to stopping the truth to come out. Scientific experimentation is the only means to generate the truth and therefore all scientists should be allowed to conduct independent experiments."

The Bt eggplant project has been consistently complying with all the biosafety conditions prescribed by the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order 8, as set by the national regulatory agency Bureau of Plant Industry. The regulatory assessment of biotech crops in the Philippines is science-based and is considered as a biosafety framework model by other countries.

For more information about the incident, visit the original article at http://www.bic.searca.org/press_release/2011/18feb.html. Visit SEARCA BIC website http://www.bic.searca.org for more news about biotechnology in the Philippines.