Source of Bt Eggplant gene stock endangers rats – study

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 Jan) – An environmental epidemiologist has released a study showing that the consumption of Bt Brinjal – where
the gene stock of the Bt Eggplant was sourced – can cause inflammation, reproductive disorders and liver damage among rats.

A report, “Bt Brinjal Event EE1: The Scope and Adequacy of the GEAC Toxicological Risk Assessment: Review of Oral Toxicity Studies in
Rats,” released by the Institute for Independent Impact Assessment in Biotechnology, said that experiments conducted on rats showed alarming
signs that the genetically-modified eggplant is “not fit for human consumption.”

Lou Gallagher, the environmental epidemiologist who prepared the study, said the safety claims of Bt Brinjal (eggplant) are “unwarranted and not supported by existing data.”

“On the contrary, there are alarming signs that the consumption of food derived from these plants could result to adverse health
effects”, said Gallagher, also a risk assessment expert from New Zealand.

The gene used in Bt Eggplant has been sourced from the same stock of Bt Brinjal hybrids tested in India by Indian scientists. The Bt
eggplant is genetically engineered to produce insecticidal proteins (called Bt toxin) to fight the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB),
a common eggplant pest.

She said that the raw data of the 14 and 90-day feeding studies of the Bt Brinjal on experimental rats showed “organ and systems damage;
among them, ovaries reduced to half their normal weight, enlarged spleens with white blood cell counts at 35 to 40 percent higher than
normal with elevated eosinophils, indicating immune function changes; and toxic effects to the liver.”

Gallagher said that based on these data alone, the genetically engineered eggplant cannot be recommended for human consumption.
“Major health problems among test animals were ignored in these reports,” she wrote. “The single test dose used was lower than
recommended by the Indian protocols. Release of Bt brinjal for human consumption cannot be recommended given the current evidence of
toxicity to rats in just 90 days and the studies’ serious departures from normal scientific standards,” she concluded in the study.

Organic farming advocates in Davao welcomed the study.

Angelica Castro, coordinator of Go Organic Mindanao, said the report underscored the dangers of the Bt eggplant to human health.

“The city government of Davao was correct in deciding to uproot the Bt talong from the experimental site to prevent contamination and the
eventual accidental consumption of the Bt eggplant,” she said.

Dr. Rodel Maghirang, Bureau of Plant Industry scientist, said there is “really no need for Bt talong because there are varieties which are
resistant to EFSB.”

“We have strong variety of eggplants but they still develop the Bt mainly for money,” Maghirang was quoted by organic farming advocates
during a seminar on integrated pest management he gave at the City Agriculturist Office (CAO). (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)