Ban all GM crops, groups ask Davao City council

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 February) — Groups promoting organic agriculture urged the City Council to reject not only Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant, the first genetically modified vegetable scheduled for commercialization next year, but also all genetically modified crops in Davao City.

Lia Esquillo, executive director of the Interface Development Interventions Inc., made the call during the city council committee on agriculture hearing also attended by scientists and proponents of Bt eggplant.

”We appeal to our councilors to follow our Organic Agriculture Ordinance and to reject not only Bt eggplants but also all genetically modified crops in the city,” Esquillo said, adding, ”We want Davao City to be GMO-free.”

A plant breeder reportedly questioned the uprooting last December of the Bt eggplants field-tested within the 1,000-sq. meter experimental site at the University of the Philippines Mindanao campus in Mintal, prompting the city council committee on agriculture to call a hearing to decide whether or not to allow the field tests here.

Esquillo, a member of the Go Organic Mindanao, said that organic farming and genetically modified crops cannot exist side by side.

Dr. Desiree Hautea, project leader of the Bt eggplant field tests, told the city council UP scientists were keen on developing the insect-resistant genetically-modified eggplants because eggplant is one of the most important vegetables in the country, accounting for some P3 billion annually in the country’s total vegetable crop production.

She said genetically modified eggplants will totally eliminate farmers’ dependence on pesticides.

”Without pesticides, only 15 percent of the farmers’ harvest could reach the market, so what we are doing here is for the farmers,” she explained.

The group Go Organic Davao City, however, said the multinational companies not the farmers will benefit from the latest genetically modified crops.

”We know what happened to Bt corn and Bt cotton,” said a fact sheet distributed by the group during the public hearing, ”Farmers will have to buy seeds at very prohibitive costs every cropping season.”

The group also cited a recent study showing that Bt Brinjal, from which the Bt eggplants are derived, caused organ malfunction when eaten by rats and hence, not recommended for human consumption.

Hautea refused to rebut the results of the scientific experiment but said that the insecticidal protein inserted into the Bt eggplant is broken into amino acids once the eggplants are cooked.

She said rats were fed with powdered raw eggplants during the experiment. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)