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by Paolo Romero
09-September-2010 The Philippine Star
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MANILA, Philippines - Two lawmakers questioned yesterday a multinational firm’s field testing of genetically modified eggplants in violation of law.

In separate statements, Reps. Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna and Arthur Yap of Bohol called for the immediate suspension of Bacillus Thuringiensis’s field tests due to possible hazards on human health and the environment.

The procedure was in violation of the law on organic agriculture, they added.

The House of Representatives will conduct an inquiry on the testing of the genetically modified eggplant, the lawmakers said.

Casiño has filed House Resolution 237 for the committee on agriculture and food to immediately probe field testing.

“I call on the government proponents of Bt eggplant to stop all these tests as these are illegal at the least and can give rise to agricultural and health anomalies in the near future,” he said.

“It is best to have our eggplants all natural and safe. I also have this to say to foreign biotech companies: Don’t touch my talong (eggplant).”

Casiño said the Bt eggplant is now being field-tested in seven sites: Sta. Maria, Pangasinan; Bae, Laguna; Pili, Camarines Sur; Baybay, Leyte; Sta. Barbara, Iloilo; University of the Philippines Mindanao, Davao City; and Kabacan, North Cotabato by Maharastra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd. (Mahyco) and is allegedly intended for commercial release in 2011.

Mahyco is affiliated with Monsanto, a US-based biotech company which introduced the controversial Bt corn in the country, he added.

Casiño said GMO is an organism that has been altered genetically, typically through the transfer of DNA, a gene-carrying molecule, from another organism. “Alterations result in new characteristics not naturally belonging to that organism and this can be dangerous,” he said.

“This is what the government proponents of Bt eggplant, particularly the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), and some state colleges and universities do not say.”

Casiño said the Bt eggplant field testing violates Republic Act 10068, the Organic Agriculture Act which bans the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO), and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to which the Philippines is a signatory.

“In light of the Feb. 9, 2010 decision of the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests to declare a moratorium on further distribution and commercialization of Bt eggplant in India, it would be prudent for the Philippines to stop all testing of the crop,” he said.

Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) is a toxin-producing germ which, when embedded into eggplant, causes it to become resistant to the Philippine Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB).

The Bt eggplant is a GMO designed to produce an insecticide in order to fight insects.

This insecticide is present in the whole plant and is concentrated in the fruit.

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