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Savants dispute grounds for issuing kalikasan writ
by Macon Ramos-Araneta
16-May-2012 Manila Standard Today
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THERE is no basis for the contention raised by international environmental group Greenpeace in its petition filed with the Supreme Court that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplants, a genetically modified variety that produces its own pesticide, is dangerous to health, damaging human internal organs particularly the liver and kidney.

National Academy of Science and Technology president Emil Javier said at a press conference at the Traders Hotel Manila on Tuesday that the effects that Bt eggplant purportedly had on experimental mice are not comparable with the effects on human being.

NAST is the highest science and technology advisory and recognition body of the scientific community in the country.

He said the pure protein crystals from the Bt eggplant administered to mice was done by injection which is not the common way this should be given to human. He said humans take eggplant orally.

Furthermore, Javier explained that while the mice received 100 microorganisms of pure crystal protein, a human being must eat 2,000 kilograms of eggplant a day to receive this kind of experimental result.

In seeking a writ of kalikasan, which was issued by the High Court last Monday, Greenpeace alleged Bt could endanger the health of consumers.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy designed for the protection of one’s constitutional right to a healthy environment.

Javier said the Bt eggplant project in the country is being conducted by the Institute of Plant Breeding of the UP Los Banos, a public sector research institution with the mandate of developing quality plant varieties for Filipino farmers.

Proponents and scientist have been pointing out that Bt eggplant field trials are being done to find out the truth about its perform.

“Hindering this experiment is similar to snatching a safe, potential medicine to food insecurity,” they said.

Javier expressed confidence the Supreme Court will not act rashly but rather consider the scientific side regarding the petition for the writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus filed by a group of non-government organizations against Bt eggplant multi-location field trials.

He described Greenpeace’s filing of the petition as contrary to national interest.

Contrary to the baseless allegations of the petitioners, Javier claimed Bt eggplant is potentially the best environmentally friendly technology for eggplant production.

Greenpeace also said that with its built-in insect-resistance gene, Bt eggplant can also create aggressive weeds that may wreak havoc to local agriculture and natural habitats.

Dr. Desiree Hautea, regional coordinator of Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II and project leader of Bt eggplant, said the excessive and improper use of chemical insecticides are health hazards.

She said in the case of eggplants, they should be sprayed with insecticide on the average of 80 times per season, or every other day, just to rid farmers of borers. Some even dip the unharvested eggplant fruits in cocktail mix of chemicals just to ensure having marketable produce and income.

Saying that eggplant is the No. 1 vegetable in the country in terms of production, she said that in Pangasinan alone, 95 percent of the eggplant production is being discarded due to insects that infest the crop.

The use of Bt eggplant will give eggplant growers more than 10 times the usual yield of farmers who use spray insecticide.

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