Bt talong field trial in North Cotabato given biosafety permit but…

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/10 March) – The field testing of the controversial Bacillus thuringiensis eggplant or Bt talong in North Cotabato remains pending despite the issuance of the biosafety permit for its trial, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture here said today.

Nelly Ylanan, DA Region-12 information officer, said the Bureau of Plant Industry has cleared the field trial of Bt talong at the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan town as far as June last year.

“The permit for the field trial is already there but the problem is the lack of endorsement from the provincial government,” she said.

Rakim Tantung, DA-12 plant quarantine division chief, also said the trial has not commenced to date because education awareness campaigns on Bt talong continue.

“The Bt talong field trial is a sensitive issue,” he said, adding the DA regional office is ready in case the field trial will finally start.

It will be the regional plant quarantine division which will supervise the Bt talong seedlings upon arrival, Tantung said.

He noted that the field trial will be strictly conducted in that it will be fenced and only authorized persons allowed to enter the testing site.

Moreover, to ensure the experiment “will not cause contamination,” the Bt talong will be planted 200 meters away from the other eggplants in the area, Tantung said.

The fate of the fruit- and shoot borer-resistant Bt talong testing, however, rests on the provincial government, Ylanan said.

North Cotabato’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan has conducted public consultations regarding the planned field testing of Bt talong at the USM, one of the seven trial sites across the country.

Vicente Suropia Jr., chairman of the provincial board’s agriculture committee, reportedly said the provincial government has a policy to first conduct consultations before they could come up with a resolution on the field trial of the Bt talong.

The field testing of Bt talong, in some parts of the country, has been welcomed by resistance.

In December last year, the Davao City government ordered the state-run University of the Philippines-Mindanao to uproot the genetically modified plant, for the proponent’s apparent failure to conduct public consultations.

UP-Mindanao officials bowed to the order issued by Mayor Sara Duterte.

Last month, environmental activist group Greenpeace also destroyed a Bt talong field trial in Bay town in Laguna province.

“The Bt eggplant experiment poses a threat to the environment and to farmers’ livelihoods, aside from violating the spirit of the Organic Agriculture Act. Once these experimental GMOs (genetically modified organisms) flower, their pollen can contaminate both conventional and organic crops, irreversibly damaging them,” Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, has said in a statement.

Greenpeace has called on the government to stop all the Bt talong field tests in the country. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)