High Court stops field trials of genetically modified eggplant

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Sunday, May 13, 2012


MANILA -- Cultivation of genetically modified eggplants--perceived to be dangerous for human consumption--will be put on hold after the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan in favor of petitioners led by environment group Greenpeace.

Details of the writ issued last Friday however were kept private by Greenpeace while the High Court has yet to post the resolution on its website.

"As per advice of our lawyer, we cannot share the copy with the media. Basically, the writ is for respondents to justify the field trials. I cannot go into the details for now," Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a text message to Sun.Star.

Named respondents in the petition are the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority of the Department of Agriculture, University of the Philippines-Los Baños Foundation Inc., UP Mindanao Foundation Inc., and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications-Southeast Asia Center.

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Agriculture officials declined to comment on the High Court's move, which came just two weeks after a group of politicians and environmental advocates told the court of "serious uncertainties" regarding the safety and long-term impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

They also questioned the government regulatory process for approving GMOs, and highlighted the need for a genuine and comprehensive process of informing and consulting the public, as well as ensuring the safety of GMOs first on health and environmental grounds before they are released into the open.

According to Greenpeace, many independent scientific studies provide evidence that GMOs such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant, as well as Bt corn, can negatively impact the liver, kidneys or blood when ingested.

These man-made organisms, when planted in open fields, have also been found to crossbreed with natural species, endangering biodiversity.

Field trials of Bt eggplant are currently being carried out in four provinces with plans to propagate the controversial crop in other places in the country such as in the Ilocos Region.

Data provided by Greenpeace show that the Philippines has never rejected any GMO application, approving, since 2002, a total of 67 GMOs for importation, consumption and/or propagation. Most of these GMOs are approved as food for Filipinos. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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