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by Rudy A. Fernandez
03-June-2007 The Philippine STAR

It’s but a matter of time before production of genetically modified (GM) papaya and eggplant will be commercialized.

In a 1.5-hectare fenced field experimental plot of the UP Los Baños-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB) in Los Baños, Laguna, GM papaya resistant to the dread papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) and fruit and shoot borer (FSB)-resistant eggplant have been programmed to be planted, at the earliest this June and the latest in July.

The planting of the GM papaya and eggplant in the “confined” field signifies their having “graduated” from the “contained” stage (within an enclosed and roofed environment).

After a season in the “confined” stage, the research will move on to the multilocational phase wherein the transgenic or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) plants will be tried in selected farmers’ fields across the country.

The last stage is the commercialization of the crops once they are found to thrive in actual field conditions.

UPLB-IPB officials and researchers led by Drs. Desiree Hautea, Josefina Narciso, Pablito Magdangal, and Antonio Laureta reported the project’s progress during a recent field trip to the project sites.

The field visit was one of the activities in the “Food Safety and Risk Communication Workshop for Selected Pinoy GM Crops” held in Los Baños last May 10-11 and sponsored by the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP), Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), and US Agency for International Development-Economic Modernization Agency through Efficient Reforms and Governance (USAID-EMERGE).

The project on GM papaya started in 1999 and that on eggplant in 2003. Last December, the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP), a biotechnology regulatory body, approved the conduct of the “confined” trial of the PRSV-resistant papaya.

PRSF is a destructive post that has devastated papaya stands in Luzon and subsequently the Visayas, since the mid-1980s.

The project’s success will augur well for the rehabilitation of the ailing papaya industry.

Papaya is the country’s sixth most important vegetable fruit crop today. Moreover, the papain substance found in this fruit is used as the main component in the manufacture of cosmetics, including soap and shampoo.

Eggplant, on the other hand, is now the country’s top vegetable crop, covering about 20,000 has and yielding annually 179 tons valued at about P2 billion.

The first GM eggplant variety was developed in India and introduced in the Philippines three years ago.

The UPLB-IPB end-product—Bt eggplant — is expected to be the answer to the fruit and shoot borer, the most destructive pest attacking eggplant in Asia. In the Philippines, for instance, yield losses from FSB range from 54 percent to 70 percent. No FSB-resistant commercial eggplant variety is available.

With the eventual commercialization of Bt papaya and Bt eggplant, the horizon of the country’s top vegetable crops is expected to further brighton.

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SEAMEO SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center
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