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by Jennifer Ng
16-August-2007 BusinessMirror

Multinational firm Monsanto Philippines Inc. is asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to extend the permit it has been issued to propagate the first Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn variant called the Mon 810.

Monsanto has filed its application for an extension with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), an attached agency of the DA.

“They are asking for the renewal of their permit to commercially propagate their Bt corn,” said BPI director Joel Rudinas in an interview.

Monsanto was granted a permit to commercially propagate Mon 810 on December 4, 2002. The permit would lapse at the end of December this year.

BPI disclosed that it is still in the process of reviewing the application and has asked Monsanto to provide them with additional documents which the bureau did not indicate.

Under Administrative Order 8 issued by then Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Q. Montemayor, Monsanto may be given another five years to propagate its corn variant once the BPI approves its application.

Mon 810 was the first genetically modified crop approved for propagation by the DA here in the Philippines in 2002.

At the time, Bt corn was not welcomed particularly by non-government organizations and environment advocates such as Greenpeace, which thumbed down Bt corn due purportedly to its adverse effect on human health.

The BPI has earlier assured the safety of Bt corn, saying that the Scientific and Technical Review Panel composed of independent scientists did not find evidence of potential risks to humans.

Bt corn is a variety of corn where a specific Bt gene is inserted to produce a protein that protects the corn plant from feeding by Asiatic corn borers (ACB). This makes the corn plant naturally resistant to attack by ACB.

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