Mayor orders halt to Bt eggplant trials-A A +A
Friday, December 17, 2010
DAVAO City Mayor Sara Duterte has issued a cease and desist order on the operation of the Bt talong/eggplant (Bacillus Thuringiensis) field trials and to uproot "all existing Bt talong specimens" effective Friday.
She informed University of the Philippines-Mindanao chancellor Dr. Gilda Rivero of the city's decision dated December 13.
"The City Government is ordering you to cease and desist the operation of the Bt talong field trials and to uproot all existing Bt talong specimens, which have been planted within your area. Otherwise, we shall be constrained to supervise the uprooting of the said specimens. The City Agriculturist's Office shall monitor your compliance. We look forward to your full cooperation," Duterte said.
Duterte said the university has failed to comply with majority of the conditions set by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
City Agriculturist's Office (CAO) officer-in-charge Leonardo Avilla III on Thursday afternoon delivered the decision of the mayor to UP Mindanao himself.
Avila said the administration of the University asked for a 5-day grace period and Avila was obliged to inform the City Mayor, who is currently in Cagayan de Oro.
The City Mayor, however, ordered that there will be no delay to her order, and that the uprooting of Bt talong specimens should be done immediately Friday.
The BPI on June 28 released the Biosafety Permit for the field testing approving the conduct of the trials "provided (UP-Mindanao) followed the stipulated conditions."
"However, based on the report of the Davao CAO, you have complied with only three of 15 conditions that enables you to engage in such field testing," Duterte informed the university.
The Mayor added that the university was also unable to conduct a public consultation through the posting of the Public Information Sheet for Field Testing approved by the BPI.
The consultation is a requirement, based on Administrative Order (AO) 8 Series of 2002 of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which detailed the approval process for field testing of regulated articles, Duterte said.
Go Organic Mindanao (GOM) members welcomed the cease-and-desist order issued by the Mayor to the university regarding the field trials.
GOM coordinator Angelica Castro said the stand of the mayor "is consistent with the City's Organic Agriculture Ordinance which provides against the co-existence of genetically modified (GM) crops with local organically grown produce."
Castro noted in a press statement that perhaps the recently issued resolutions from Barangay Bago Oshiro and Mintal, which called for the immediate cessation of the field trials, added weight to the decision of the City.
Members of the Go Organic Mindanao were quick to comment on the development and lauded Duterte for having written the letter to UP Mindanao. They said the university should abide by the rules.
CAO officer-in-charge Leonardo Avila III, in his "Bt Egglant Site Visit Report," detailed his observations of the ocular visit she conducted at the trial site at UP Mindanao in Mintal last December 6, 1:30 pm.
Avila said Chancellor Rivero was not around then but was represented by OIC Vic Calag, lawyer Marie Glenn Sorila, and Professor Eufemio Rasco Jr.
Avila's main concerns were:
* UP Mindanao did not immediately respond to the City Mayor and the City Council's resolution stating the official stand of the city on Bt talong.
* The university's compliance to the biosafety regulation.
* The plausible violation by the University of the DA's AO 8 series of 2002.
"When asked why they didn't respond immediately, even going beyond the 15 days requirement of the National Law, they said that the UP Chancellor was out of town and they were consolidating their response to the City Mayor and the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council). They apologized for the delay and said they will acknowledge the letter immediately which they did on December 7, 2010, together with an invitation for a forum and ocular inspection of the site," Avila said in his report.
Avila said that the university complied with three biosafety conditions of the regulation.
Avila requested the university to officially put down in writing the reason why they are using cyclone wires around the test site.
"I pointed out to them (AO 8) the rules and regulations as there could be a violation on this, particularly: G. Public Consultation... There was no invitation for comments and no posting of the Public Information Sheet for Field Testing in City Hall," Avila said.
He said that after the field visit, the university agreed to conduct a forum, which they did on December 9 and which was attended by CAO personnel Jojo Tabora and Lorna Alderite.
Avila said the forum was conducted by UP Mindanao and was attended mostly by UP students, a few non-government organizations, and Councilors Conrado Baluran and Emmanuel Galicia Sr.
Speakers of the said forum were Dr. Desiree Hautea of UP Los Baños and Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr.
"They talked on their stand: Bt as non-toxic and even helpful to farmers who plant talong since the farmer need not spray during the cropping season of talong," he said.
According to Dr. Rasco, Bt can be found in soil, food, and even in the body, Avila said.
"The problem, according to him, is UOD and the solution is Bt. He also presented the letter of Mayor Sara to the audiences that 'Yes, you can go on with your field trial as long as you follow the Biosafety measures,'" Avila said.
Avilla added in his report that follow-up communications are still being awaited from the university regarding their compliance with the Mayor's request. (Jade C. Zaldivar)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 17, 2010.