Davao City government takes a stand; council passes bill versus BT eggplant

Subscribe Now October 14, 2010 at 12:14pm

The city’s legislative council has passed a bill supporting the executive department’s hard-line stance against the Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant, a genetically modified species being field-tested at the University of Philippines (UP)-Mindanao campus. In a resolution, Councilor Conrado C. Baluran, committee chairman on agriculture, said there is no compelling reason for Davao City to welcome the Bt eggplant because it is a complete departure from what the local government wants to pursue when it earlier approved the organic agriculture ordinance.

"The city is agriculture-based, a major part of its economy and population depends on its agriculture produce and that for one crop to inflict damage to such sector is a gamble the city cannot make," he told local media.

Internet resources define Bt as a soil-dwelling bacterium commonly used as a biological alternative to pesticide.

In a letter dated Oct. 5, 2010 and addressed to UP-Mindanao Chancellor Dr. Gilda C. Rivero, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said that while the city appreciates the efforts of the academe to keep the public informed and to reach out to local government officials, the local government nevertheless "strongly opposes the open field trial/testing of [Bt eggplant] on Davao City’s soil."

She said the City Agriculturist’s Office agrees with the position of Indian scientist Dr. Pushpa Mittra Bhargava, who visited the city last month for a series of dialogues and site visits to the test area, to adopt a "precautionary principle" when it comes to gene enhancers.

"The city government of Davao can only allow research activities on (Bt eggplant) on a strictly restricted/confined environment," the letter added.

During Mr. Bhargava’s public forum, he said his group already recorded over 60 documented health effects of genetically modified organisms. He was quick to add, however, that he was not opposed to biotechnology as a process.

"The technology itself has been responsible for some of the significant breakthroughs in medical science, like the development of human insulin. But tinkering with an organism without proper tests is extremely dangerous, because once you release the plant, you cannot take it back," Mr. Bhargava said.

As for the Bt eggplant, "there are 30 tests that need to be done before approving genetically modified plants, but these have not been conducted."

The head of field testing, UP Prof. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr., an expert on biotechnology and author of the book The Unfolding Green Revolution, said "temporal and spatial isolation in production fields" can prevent the mixing of genetically modified organisms with organic ones.

Mr. Rasco said the safety evaluation on Bt eggplant in the Philippines is conducted not only by UP but also by the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Agriculture and other state universities based on the benchmarks set by the World Health Organization, the Food Agriculture Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Convention on Biological Diversity.

Source: bworldonline.com

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