LOS BANOS – Citing academic
freedom, the University
of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) has vowed to pursue
a case against members of the environment group Greenpeace
Philippines for trespassing and uprooting experimental plants
worth P25 million.
The incident occurred last February 17.
The Provincial Prosecution Office of Laguna has now said
the Greenpeace activists will be prosecuted for malicious
Among those to be charged are Daniel Ocampo and Indian
nationals Shavani Shah and Ali Abbas of Greenpeace.
The foreign nationals allegedly joined Ocampo and his team
in entering the experimental farm at the UPLB Institute
of Plant Breeding (IPB), destroying the perimeter fence
and uprooting the so-called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)
The genes of the Bt eggplant have been modified for resistance
to the eggplant fruit and shoot borer.
The Bt eggplant is being developed by UPLB-IPB and the
Biotechnology Support Project II with public sector
funding from United
States Agency for International Development and the
of Agriculture (DA).
It is currently under multi-location trial and is being
assessed for agricultural performance and biosafety.
A resolution, signed by Provincial Prosecutor George C.
Dee and passed last May 13, stated as an undisputed fact
that the Greenpeace members forcibly entered the UPLB experimental
farm with the common purpose to pull up the existing experimental
plants which caused damage worth P25 million.
The case will be pursued "to ensure that the violators
will be held liable for their actions," said Dr. Luis
Rey Velasco, UPLB Chancellor. "We have to protect the
interest of the university and defend our academic freedom."
The prosecutor’s decision confirms the law was violated
when Greenpeace members forcibly entered the experimental
farm, he said.
The field trial "is a legitimate experiment of UPLB
designed to evaluate the merits and demerits of the technology,"
Velasco said. "We followed national policies and rules
and regulations. We have permission from the authorities."
The Bt eggplant experiment is still in the research and
development phase and the prosecutor’s decision was a welcome
news for those directly involved in the development of Bt
eggplant, said research leader Dr. Lourdes D. Taylo of IPB.
"We are fully compliant with all the conditions stipulated
in the biosafety permit for the conduct of field trial of
Bt eggplant issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI),"
she said. "Our activities are strictly monitored by
the BPI Post Entry Quarantine Service of and the UPLB Institutional
The Bt eggplant is billed by IPB researchers as a promising
innovation that could control the damage of the fruit and
shoot borers, increase farmers’ yield and decrease the overdependence
Fruit and shoot borer infestation reduce production and
profitability by 50 percent to 75 percent.
Eggplant is the number one vegetable in the country in
terms of production area and volume valued at more than
P3 billion at current prices.
The current farmer’s practice is considered to be highly
hazardous, expensive and unsustainable.
Farmers rely on heavy and often improper use of pesticides
to control the pest. It has been documented that chemical
spraying could reach up to 70 to 80 times per season or
every other day. Farmers even resort to dipping the fruits
in a cocktail mix of insecticides.
This is a widespread practice that causes serious environmental
and health hazards to consumers and farmers, including their
family members who help in the farm.
Socioeconomic studies, according to the Southeast Asian
Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture,
have shown that farmer adoption of Bt eggplant could provide
additional income of about P50,000 due to increased marketable
yield and reduced insecticide use by us much as 48 percent.
It is not the first time that Greenpeace is involved in
a legal tussle with UPLB. In 2009, Greenpeace and other
associates lost a petition they filed against the Liberty
Link Rice 62, a herbicide tolerant variety developed by
Bayer Crop Science.
The group had earlier petitioned to declare as unconstitutional
the public consultation provisions of DA Administrative
Order No. 8 and to bar the BPI from approving Bayer’s application
to use Liberty Link Rice 62 in the country.
It also sought and got a preliminary injunction from a
trial court barring the BPI from approving the application.
The Court of Appeals granted the petitions of BPI and Bayer
to nullify the writ of preliminary injunction initially
granted by a Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
The higher court found the arguments of Greenpeace and
other petitioners to be "too contingent and speculative
to warrant injunctive relief."