Allow field testing of GM eggplants, SC asked

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 03 2014 02:19 AM | Updated as of Apr 03 2014 10:19 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Farmers from Pangasinan and Bukidnon asked the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to allow the field testing in several provinces of bacillus thuringiensis (bt) eggplants, a genetically modified variety that produces its own pesticide.

In their petition, the farmers said the SC must reverse last year’s Court of Appeals (CA) ruling stopping the field testing as it denied them their constitutional right to property and protection of their means of livelihood.

“Indeed, there is no valid justification to maintain the naturalistic fallacy espoused in the assailed CA ruling that the ‘naturally-ordained’ state of the environment must not be altered,” read the petition.

“Apart from completely ignoring the challenges to sustainable food supply, these issuances spell the death for technology and innovation in agriculture and, essentially, for human civilization which is largely dependent on sustainable food source to flourish.”

Petitioners said the field testing and production of bt eggplant are solutions to their dilemma with the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), the most pervasive and destructive pest of eggplants.

Roughly 40 percent of total eggplants they harvested are rejected for being unmarketable due to the damage caused by the EFSB, they added.

Petitioners urged the SC to consider the tremendous potential of bt technology in improving crop productivity.

“To emphasize, apart from the benefits that will accrue to farmers such as higher crop yields and lower cost of inputs, which translate to higher profits, bt technology will address the need for an ever-larger food supply for human consumption, and thus contribute towards food security,” they said.

Petitioners said the bt technology would benefit them since higher costs for farm inputs have made eggplant farming less profitable.

“The problem has been exacerbated by cheap subsidized eggplants from China, which drive prices of eggplants downward, causing growers such as the petitioner-farmers to suffer from reduced income,” they said.

Petitioners asked the SC to allow their intervention in the case based on the policy of public participation in environmental cases to ensure that environmental safety issues are fully addressed from all perspectives.

It was the second petition filed with the SC seeking reversal of the CA ruling.

Last January, the biotechnology agency International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA) filed a similar petition.

ISAAA said the CA ruling ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture and other agencies to permanently cease and desist from further conducting bt eggplant field trials was an “affront to scientific progress.”