BPI suspends UP Mindanao biosafety permit

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 Jan) – The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has suspended the biosafety permits of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao (UP-Mindanao) and another field testing site for Bt eggplant in the Visayas for failing to comply with its public consultation requirement.

BPI director Clarito M. Barron, Ph.D., ordered the suspension of the biosafety permit for UP Mindanao and the Visayas State University after learning that both field testing sites failed to post the public information sheet (PIS) required by the Department of Agriculture administrative order governing the testing of genetically-modified crops like Bt eggplant.

“Based on the letter by Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte, we have been informed that the PIS for field trial of Bt eggplant has not been posted at the (Davao) city hall, ” Barron wrote in a December 29 letter to Dr. Desiree M. Hautea, leader of the Bt eggplant project and research professor at UP Los Baños.

Barron also wrote that the Davao mayor’s December 21 letter also led them to review other test sites and discovered that the Visayas State University (VSU) also failed to post a PIS in the municipal hall of Baybay, Leyte.

“Hence, we are suspending the date of effectivity of the biosafety permits for field testing for UP Mindanao and VSU,” Barron wrote. “All activities related to the field trial should cease immediately until rectification of the conditions for public consultation is carried out,” the letter said. Aside from the posting of the PIS, Barron’s letter also pointed out the need for the solicitation of public comments regarding the project.

Bt eggplant is a genetically-modified eggplant resistant to fruit and shoot borer. Developed by Indian scientists, the first genetically-modified vegetable crop has been field tested in Sta. Maria town in Pangasinan; Pili, Camarines Sur; UP Los Baños in Laguna; Visayas State University in Baybay, Leyte; UP Mindanao in Davao City; University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato and Sta. Barbara in Iloilo.

In October last year, the municipal council of Sta. Barbara had stopped the field testing in two communities due the project proponent’s failure to consult with local officials. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)