BARRING hitches, the Cotton
Development Administration (Coda) said it expects Bacillus
thurigiensis (Bt) cotton to be commercialized by September
Coda administrator Eugenio D. Orpia Jr. said the multilocation
trials for Bt cotton in various areas in the Philippines
will start next month.
“We are still complying with the requirements. We have
submitted a listing of sites for evaluation by the Bureau
of Plant Industry and they are now evaluating which sites
qualify,” said Orpia in a statement.
Coda, an attached agency of the Department
of Agriculture (DA) said it intends to conduct the trials
in five sites: in Batac, Ilocos Norte; Alcala, Pangasinan;
Santa Barbara, Iloilo; Polomolok, South Cotabato; and Tupi,
The trials were delayed since the technology owner or developer
failed to collaborate with Coda, Orpia noted.
He said it has been more than 10 years when the clamor
for the introduction of Bt cotton started but things changed
in 2004, when the Biotechnology Program of the DA initiated
efforts to introduce and evaluate Bt cotton varieties locally.
Orpia admitted that Bt cotton should have been commercialized
earlier than Bt corn but the technology owner thought there
was not much commercial value for the product in the country.
“We negotiated with another technology developer who are
the Chinese. We negotiated with the China
Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Biocentury
Transgene Company Ltd. in China for a collaborative project
on Bt cotton commercialization in the Philippines,” he said.
“A memorandum of agreement was signed in 2003. It was signed
and the DA committed to fund it, to fund the initial trials.
The agreement involves the evaluation of existing hybrid
Bt cotton varieties. It’s just plain evaluation as to the
efficacy and agronomic potential under local conditions
and then we can already start to introduce Bt cotton after
complying with the biosafety requirements here in the Philippines,”
However, China banned the export of genetically-modified
(GM) materials and the government had to work with BioCentury
Transgene Co., which was tasked by Beijing to commercialize
the Bt cotton technology, and eventually ended up dealing
with a franchise seed company in India, Nath Biogene Ltd.
“They were given the franchise to commercialize it by introducing
the gene to their own varieties in India,” he said.
Orpia noted that the Indian government does not ban the
export of genetic materials. Though the technology and seeds
may have come from China, which they call the fused Bt gene,
they were used on Indian cotton varieties, Orpia revealed.
“China has [intellectual property rights issues] on this.
This is the gene that they gave to the Indian seed company,
and the Indian seed company inserted this to their own varieties.
So, what is provided now as Bt cotton seeds are seeds of
Indian-developed varieties but inserted with the China developed
Bt gene,” he said.
Coda said Bt battles the corn borer in corn, the fruit-and-shoot
borer in eggplant and bollworm in cotton.
“Bollworm is a major pest. It’s a relative of the corn
borer and the fruit-and-shoot borer of eggplant. It causes
the most problems among cotton pests,” said Orpia.
The Philippines imports an average of 40,000 metric tons
of lint valued at P3 billion. The DA noted that around 97
percent is imported from the United States.
Apart from displacing the imports, the Philippines hopes
to replicate the success of India not just in the commercial
propagation of Bt cotton but also in the export of the GM