Forum on Bt eggplant slated in Malaybalay City

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 November) – Moves to propagate the controversial Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant in the country will come under close scrutiny in a forum scheduled on Nov. 5 at the Bukidnon State University here.

Organizers belonging to the Pambansang Kilusan ng  mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama)-Panaghiusa sa Lalawigang Mag-Uuma sa Bukidnon (Palambu) said that a speaker from the Southeast Asian Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) will tackle the possible impact of the genetically altered crop on food security and agriculture.

Lawyer Lee Aruelo of the Third World Network will touch on “Biosafety Regulatory Framework and Bt Talong,” according to the program emailed to MindaNews.

The forum will also discuss the benefits of using organic methods in growing eggplant and other crops as an alternative to Bt eggplant production.

The first of its kind to be held in Bukidnon, the center of agricultural production in Northern Mindanao, the forum aims to draw local farmers, policymakers, members of the academe and other sectors.

Pakisama noted that the University of the Philippines- Mindanao in Davao City and the University of Southern Mindanao – Kabacan are currently doing field tests on Bt eggplant, an eggplant variety inserted with Bt genes to combat eggplant fruit and shoot borer.

In an October 20 story, MindaNews reported that residents of Barangay Oshiro in Davao City complained they were kept in the dark about the tests being done by UP Mindanao and the risks posed by genetically-modified crops like Bt eggplant.

In its website, UP Mindanao announced on September 28 that it was holding a seminar-forum on September 29 dubbed “Seminar on Understanding the Science of Bt Eggplant.”

The school announced it would work with UP Los Banos in developing a local Bt eggplant.

In August this year, farmers in Northern Luzon protested the field testing of Bt eggplant in several sites across the country.

The farmers appealed to the Department of Agriculture to stop the field trials and eventual commercialization on at least four bases, according to Northern Dispatch Philippines.

They cited the alleged lack of information about the Bt eggplant, absence of genuine public consultation, non-observance of regulatory mechanisms governing GMOs in the country, and possible contamination and loss of biodiversity.

Pakisama, which is campaigning against the Bt eggplant, organized the Bukidnon forum together with the BSU Social Sciences Department, SEARICE, Third World Network, and the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pagunlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag).

If approved, the Bt eggplant will be the first genetically modified vegetable in the Philippines. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)