A SCIENTIST is batting for the commercialization and adoption
of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant after noting that this
would benefit both the farmers, consumers and the environment.
Dr. Serge Francisco based his proposal on the studies he made
on Bt eggplant that are contained in his book “Projected
Impacts of Agricultural Biotechnologies for Fruits and Vegetables
in the Philippines and Indonesia.”
Francisco said his studies showed that Bt eggplant cultivation
would lead to a huge reduction in expenses for pesticides and
other inputs since the genetically-modified variety is armed
with proteins that fruit and shoot borers (FSBs) feasting on
eggplants avoid like the plague.
“With bigger harvest volumes, farmers are thus assured
of meeting the demand for eggplants, which comprise about 20
percent of the demand for vegetables.
Technically, the hugely popular tomato is considered taxonomically
as a fruit rather than as a vegetable,” he said.
He stressed that the current protocol for genetic engineering
in the Philippines is more stringent than in the United States,
which also has a large organic farming sector.
Francisco said in the US, the only requirement to conduct genetic
engineering in the laboratory is to notify the US Department
“Here, laboratory work on the genetic engineering has
to be approved by the Department of Science and Technology’s
Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC),” he said.
Francisco said the strict framework is a guarantee that there
are no shortcuts in the process.
However, Julieta Estacio, head of the secretariat of the National
Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) and DOST-BC,
said in the Philippines, a GM crop first goes through several
years of development and then another five to six years of regulation
before it hits the market.
She said each step in the development and evaluation of GMOs
needs to be approved by the DOST-BC and the Bureau of Plant
Dr. Saturnina Halos, chairperson of the Biotechnology Technical
Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture (DA), also said
the country’s strategy for biosafety, the National Biosafety
Framework, is considered a model by other Southeast Asian countries.
She said that because of this, the Philippines had been visited
by representatives from Peru, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Korea
and other countries.
However, as an expert on GM crops, Dr. Halos clarified and
emphasized that Bt eggplant is not the first food crop in the
“The Philippines had been importing many GM commodities.
In fact, GM ingredients are already in several products such
as beer, cheese, gelatin, some juices and detergents, something
not many people know,” she said.
She added that available GM crops have been supporting sustainable
agriculture, one of which is the Bt corn which has been proven
as safe as its non-GM counterpart to the environment.
She said these GM crops are beneficial to farmers, parallel
with the requirements of sustainable agriculture.
“GM crops can help agriculture cope with climate change.
GM crops either improve crops for climate change, such as the
drought-tolerant rice and corn and insect resistant and herbicide
tolerant crops being developed or reduce damaging processes
to the environment, for instance, reducing 14.8 billion kilogram
carbon dioxide release or taking 6.6 million cars from the road
from planting of GM crops in 2006,” Dr. Halos said.
She added that there is a strategy to delay insects from developing
resistance to Bt which is why Insect Resistance Management (IRM)
is required for Bt corn growers. (PR)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September