THE Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is not in favor of the possible field testing of genetically modified (GMO) bananas that is proposed to be conducted by scientists from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia.

As the government had already been supportive and extends help to the banana industry, PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said the final implementation of a banana research facility will also be a big help to the industry as well. However, they are against the plan of conducting a field test plantation of genetically modified bananas in Mindanao.

He shared that two months ago scientists from QUT, one with the name of James Dale, came to Mindanao with the proposal of conducting a field test on genetically modified bananas.

“I wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol saying we do not want it, although we welcome the development. What they say is that this genetically modified Cavendish banana is resistant to Fusarium and Black Sigatoka. I said (in the letter) that we welcome these breakthroughs but we do not subscribe to the production of genetically modified bananas because we don’t know if our market will buy that,” Antig said during a press conference at Apo View Hotel yesterday, December 20.

The proposed field testing will be a university to university scheme which means QUT may contact universities in the region like University of Mindanao, University of Southeastern Philippines, or University of the Philippines Mindanao.

In 2010, planted BT talong in UP Mindanao was uprooted and had earned disapproval from organic farmers and other people against GMO. It was uprooted as the university was reported to have failed to comply with consultation requirements with the city and barangay government.

Antig was concerned that the banana consumers have the same impression of genetically modified bananas as well.

“I have no question with GMO if the market will accept that because at the end of the day, we can gauge that with the market,” he said.

Instead of genetically modified bananas, Antig said they are more in favor of natural selection. It was through natural selection that one of the best known and developed banana varieties were created. These Giant Cavendish Tissue Culture Variants (GCTCV) 218 and GCTCV 219 were developed by the Southern Mindanao Agriculture Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium (Smaarrdec) in order to help manage the banana industry’s problem on Fusarium Wilt or Panama disease.

During the 30th anniversary of Smaarrdec held at the Ayala Abreeza Malls Activity Center last August, Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) researcher Cyril Montiel, shared how GCTCV 219 had been proven to be the “sweeter” variety – even sweeter than the GCTCV 218.

In Montiel’s presentation he shared how the Grand Naine banana variety can reach up to 70 to 100 percentage of Fusarium Wilt infestation while it’s only 8 to 15 percent with GCTCV 218 and much lower with GCTCV at only 2 to 3 percent.

Antig further emphasized that these varieties were developed through natural selection and not through genetic modification, which he said, can very much be comparable with cloning already.