By: Jerome Aning
THE SUPREME Court has stopped the government and private agricultural companies from field testing “Bt talong,” a variety of genetically modified eggplant.
According to spokesperson Theodore Te, the court en banc voted unanimously to stop the field testing of Bt talong, so-called because it contains a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which is supposed to render the eggplant naturally resistant to pests.
The court also voided Department of Agriculture (DA) Administrative Order No. 8, series of 2002, which sets out the rules and regulations for the importation and release into the environment of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology.
“[Any] application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization and importation of genetically modified organisms is temporarily enjoined until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with law,” the court said.
The petitioners, which included Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines) and individuals like former Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, said in their April 2014 petition that the field trials violated their constitutional right to health and a balanced ecology citing the harmful effects and consequences of using Bt crops.
The respondents were the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environment Management Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Foundation, UP Mindanao Foundation and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).
The Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan and referred the case to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court upheld the petitioners and issued a cease-and-desist order against the field testing.
The tests were undertaken by the UPLB Foundation pursuant to a 2010 memorandum of understanding with ISAAA.
The subject of the field trial was a pest-resistant crop described as a “bioengineered eggplant.” Crystal toxin genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis were incorporated into the eggplant genome to produce the protein Cry1Ac which is toxic to the target insect pests.
The Bureau of Plant Industry issued permits for the field testing of the pest-resistant crop in March and June 2010. The field tests were conducted in Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur and North Cotabato.
The Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s determination that existing regulations issued by the DA and the science department were insufficient to guarantee the safety of the environment and the health of the people.
Originally Published: Philippine Daily Inquirer