CA stops field trials of genetically-modified eggplant

GOVERNMENT agencies have been stopped by the Court of Appeals from cultivating genetically-modified eggplant because of its threats to human health and biodiversity.

The CA Special 13th Division issued a writ of kalikasan on May 17, which stopped respondents such as the Department of Agriculture from further conducting field trials of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant and tasked them to protect and rehabilitate areas affected by the experiment.

Field trials of Bt eggplant were made in Sta. Maria, Pangasinan; Pili, Camarines Sur; Los Baños, Laguna; and South Cotabato.

"While it may be argued by the respondents that the Bt talong field trials were precisely conducted to determine the efficacy of Bt talong and to generate information and data on the same, it must be equally stressed that the overall safety guarantee of the Bt talong remains to be still unknown," stated the decision written by Associate Justice Isaias Dicdican.

The Supreme Court also issued a writ of kalikasan on May 2, 2012 and the petition was passed to the CA on July 10 of the same year for further hearing.

Environmental group Greenpeace, one of the petitioners, said preliminary studies show GMOs can negatively affect the liver, kidneys or blood when ingested and have also been found to crossbreed with natural species, endangering biodiversity.

For the same reason, countries such as India, China, Thailand, Austria, France, and Germany banned the release of genetically modified crops into their environments and/or the importation for food and processing, according to Greenpeace Southeast Asia regional political advisor Zelda Soriano.

"Field trials of Bt talong involve the willful and deliberate alteration of the genetic traits of a living element of the ecosystem and the relationship of living organisms that depend on each other for survival. Consequently, the field trials of Bt talong could not be declared by this Court as safe to human health and to our ecology, with full certainty, being an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology," the CA said.

Greenpeace data show the Philippines did not reject 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.

The government told the CA that it has been granting biosafety permits for field trials of Bt talong, Bt corn, and Bt cotton but no adverse effects resulting from the experiments had allegedly been reported. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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