Philippines: Ag chief says no to mass production of GM eggplant/aubergine
Agriculture chief says no to mass production of GMO "talong"
By Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 00:41:00 03/02/2011
LOS BANOS, Laguna, Philippines ”” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala expressed objections to the commercial production of genetically modified eggplants that were being tested in various sites in the country.
Alcala said production of the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplants should be suspended until studies have proven that the genetically modified crop is safe for human consumption.
"Perhaps after the field tests were done, hold (the production) for a while. We should ensure that they are safe for human consumption," he said.
Alcala, who approved the field trial of the Bt eggplants in seven Philippine sites, was invited as a guest at the Farmers' Field Day at the International Rice Research Institute (Irri) here on Monday.
Irri is Asia's research hub that studies and develops rice varieties for developing countries.
Resistance from local governments and environmental groups grew since the start of the field testing of the Bt eggplants in 2010.
The most recent protest action was in February when members of Greenpeace, an advocate of organic farming, uprooted crops from the test site of the University of the Philippines Los Banos in Bay, Laguna.
The activists said the eggplants were already on its "flowering or pollinating" stage, thus its pollens could easily spread and contaminate other nongenetically modified crops.
The field trial site in Bay was among the seven sites approved for the testing of the contentious eggplants in 2010.
Municipal and village officials in Davao City, Baybay in Leyte, and Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, later issued resolutions banning the field tests, while those in other municipalities "were also looking into doing the same," said Greenpeace media officer JP Agcaoili.
The other test sites were in Sta. Maria, Pangasinan; Pili, Camarines Sur; and Kabacan, North Cotabato.
Alcala said the Department of Agriculture is promoting vegetables and root crops, among other measures to help the farming industry, as a means to achieve the government's target to be self-sufficient in its supply of rice by 2013.
"In the whole Asia, Philippines is the least consumer of vegetables," he said.
The Philippines will limit its rice importation this year to 800,000 metric tons (MT), which is only a third of the 2.45 million MT rice imported in 2010, Alcala said.