Environmentalists act against BT eggplant

ENVIRONMENTALISTS group decontamination unit removed genetically-engineered Bt eggplant, locally known as ‘Talong’, from a field trial site in Barangay Paciano in Bay, Laguna, and sealed the experimental food crop in hazmat (hazardous materials) containers to prevent further contamination of neighboring fields and the environment.

The Greenpeace activist were supported by organic farmers from Davao who had participated in a similar operation carried out by their provincial government last year.

“Greenpeace is taking action today to prevent any further contamination from these hazardous genetically crops. This Bt eggplant experiment poses a threat to the environment and to farmers’ livelihoods, aside from violating the spirit of the Organic Agriculture Act. Once these experimental GMOS (genetically modified organisms) flower, their pollen can contaminate both conventional and organic crops, irreversibly damaging them, ” said Danial Ocampo. Sustainable Agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “The public has the right to a safe environment and to food sources that are not genetically engineered. If the authorites, such as the DA, fail to upload those rights, then it bacomes legitimate for others to do so.”

Greenpeace has called on the department og Agriculture (DA) to:

1. Halt all BF eggplat field trials in the Philippines and decontaminate all existing field trials sites with immediatte effect.
2. Implement the Organic Agriculture Act and ban genetic off all crops in the Philiipnes.
3 To take an active  role in supplying and quiantity of non-Bt and qualifyseeds and upport organicand ecological agriculture practices

Bt eggplant fields trials commenced in 2010 despite massive protest by farmers and consumers. Of the seven selected trials, Davao City, Baybay in Leyte, and Sta Barbarain Iloilo, have issued municipal and barangay resolutions banning the field trials. Similar statues are still in process for Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur and North North Cotabato, where field trials are already underway. Field trials were also conducted in Davao City last October but the plants were uprooted by the local government to upload a resolution banning the trials.

“Like in India, there is no public support for Bt eggplant field trials it is just not right for few GMO proponents to conduct an open experiment that can inflict grave and possiblty irreversible risks to an unsuspecting public, ” added Shivani Shan, he sustainable agriculture campaigner from India who was on-hand to provide support to local effort in implementing a shift to sustainable farming practices.

The Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant is genetically-modified to contain a built-in toxin to kill the fruit-and shoot borer insect. It is currently not  approved in any country including in India where the technology was sourced for use in the Philippines. Last February 2010, the government of India passed a moratorium on BT eggplant commercialization to protect the country agriculture. In its decision, the Environment Ministry said that the science behind Bt eggplant is inadequate to answer the concernes raised by civil society groups, and that the country’s GMO regulatory system is inadequate.

An analysis of India’s Bt brinjal (eggplant) biosafety data by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, a French scientist, released in 2009 shows that the GMO eggplant is unsuitable for human consumption. The analysis concluded that Bt brinjal released into the environment, for food or feed, may be present a serious risk for human and animal health.[1]

“Greenpeace is urging DA Secretary Prospero Alcala to categorically ban all Bt Eggplant field trials. He has already stated that Bt eggplant will not be commercialized, which renders the field trials irrelevant. Safety concerns on Bt eggplant are still unanswered, and the risks are even more disturbing given the Philippines’ very lax and permissive regulatory systems. Only by halting thefurther entry and approvals of genetically engineered food crops can the DA achieve its goal of food security and sustainable agriculture in the country, concluded Ocampo.

Greenpeace campaigns for  agriculture that is good for the planet and people; healthy food grown with the environment-  not against it; and farming that will help us cope with climate change.

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