Scientific, academic communities slam Greenpeace for raid on Bt eggplant trial site

THE scientific and academic community slammed Greepeace activists that raided a field trial site for Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in Bay, Laguna last Thursday,February 17.

The National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and academic leaders of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) condemned the raid.

Luis Rey I. Velasco, Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) said  the Greenpeace raid violated national biosafety rules and was an affront to academic freedom in UPLB.

“Being a university, we promote and are committed to academic freedom. 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.

“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,” Velasco warned.

“It is a sad day for Philippine science. Misinformed, misguided people are denying our poor farmers and consumers the benefits of good science,” said former UP president Emil Q. Javier, who also heads the NAST.

He also said 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.

Dr. Candida Adalla, director of the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO) also slammed the attack. She served as dean of the UP College of Agriculture from 2000 to 2007.

“The DA remains steadfast in its position that the Bt eggplant trial is compliant to all government guidelines and therefore should not be destroyed. 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,” she said.

The anti-biotech group Greenpeace forced entry to the field experiment but only succeeded in uprooting more than 100 non-transgenic eggplants, which served as pollen traps and check varieties. Only two Bt eggplants were uprooted.

Around six vehicles arrived surreptitiously at the Bt eggplant field trial site of the UPLB at around 6:30 a.m. Approximately 20 people, headed by Daniel Ocampo of Greenpeace, forced entry to the site by destroying the steel gate with a bolt cutter.

“The perpetrators wore protective masks and overalls to reinforce misinformation on the alleged safety issues of the GM crop, and possibly to hide their identities and avoid legal arrest by university authorities. Indian nationals wearing Greenpeace shirts were with the anti-biotech group during the illegal activity,” witnesses said.

The scientists tagged the attackers as motivated by “ignorance” so much so that they “only succeeded in uprooting the non-Bt eggplant pollen traps, which were planted around the trial to prevent cross-pollination in the first place.”

The Bt eggplant is developed through modern biotechnology and has inherent resistance to the most destructive pest-fruit and shoot borer. The project is now on the second season of multi-location field trial for the open pollinated variety (OPV).

This very promising technology is expected to reduce the pesticide use and increase farmers’ income. It could also provide positive impact to the environment and reduce the health risks associated with the extensive use of chemical pesticides. Farmers, especially those who have benefitted from the adoption of insect-resistant corn Bt corn, are looking forward to the
commercialization of this innovative technology, Adalla noted.

All the communities and local governments adjacent to the trial site have strongly supported and endorsed the trial, they said.

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