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SCIENCE & PLANTS: North Cotabato (Philippines) may open up land for GM eggplant field testing



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   NORTH COTABATO LGU MAY OPEN UP LAND FOR GM EGGPLANT FIELD TESTING

SOURCE:  The Manila Bulletin, Philppines

AUTHOR:  Melody M. Aguiba

URL:     http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/304043/north-cotabato-lgu-may-open-land-gm-eggplant-field-testing

DATE:    13.02.2011

SUMMARY: "North Cotabato Vice Governor Gregorio T. Ipong has declared willingness to review the province?s policy on field testing for the Bacillus thuringiensis eggplant amid inquiries that the local government has been receiving regarding the crop?s field trials. [...] ?The best way in discerning things is to always get back to how these things came about through scientific method. As an engineer, I also have to listen to the scientific results. It is not a bad idea if both sides are seen and heard,? said Ipong, according to a statement."

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NORTH COTABATO LGU MAY OPEN UP LAND FOR GM EGGPLANT FIELD TESTING

MANILA, Philippines ? The North Cotabato local government is contemplating on an option to open up its land for field testing for the genetically modified (GM) eggplant even as the crop was originally set to start commercial seed growing this year.

North Cotabato Vice Governor Gregorio T. Ipong has declared willingness to review the province?s policy on field testing for the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant amid inquiries that the local government has been receiving regarding the crop?s field trials.

North Cotabato, particularly the University of Southern Mindanao (USM), is one of few sites for field testing of the Bt eggplant being conducted by the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB).

?The best way in discerning things is to always get back to how these things came about through scientific method. As an engineer, I also have to listen to the scientific results. It is not a bad idea if both sides are seen and heard,? said Ipong, according to a statement.

Field trial sites have been receiving protests, specifically petitions for suspension of the field trials, against the GM crop apparently due to questions of food and environmental safety. Officials asserted that the field trials are precisely the venue to determine food and environmental safety of the crop.

?Field trials need to be conducted to generate the local data needed by the BPI to evaluate the crop?s safety to environment, once it moves to the application for propagation, said Merle Palacpac, head of the Biotech Core Team of the Department of Agriculture-attached Bureau of Plant Industry.

?If the field trials will be halted, how would we know if it is safe or not? We will not let the proponent use the data from India. We need to see the event?s performance in the Philippines.? Many biotechnology experts were not happy with the pre-termination of the Bt talong.

The ?Seminar on Understanding the Science, Safety, and Benefits of Bt Crops Technology? was held last Jan. 12 by the North Cotabato provincial council after receiving from the Citizens Food Watch an inquiry on food and environmental safety concerns on Bt eggplant.

USM President Jesus Antonio Derije stressed the importance of sustaining the field trials in determining safety of the crop.

?Since USM is a research institution, we should know the consequences of the researches conducted in the campus. We need to know, would this experiment really be detrimental? We will know that based on scientific basis. We can?t just say that this is harmful just because of what we read. USM is here to give the right knowledge to everyone,? said Derije in the same statement released by the SEARCA Biotechnology Information Center.

The development of the GM eggplant, among other GM crops, is believed to be a key to intensifying food security problems faced by the Philippines along with other developing nations. Bt eggplant, based on earlier field trials, will perhaps raise by two to five times the country?s eggplant yield as it is resistant to the highly-infesting fruit and shoot borer. Average eggplant yield here is 9.95 metric tons per hectare.

Bt eggplant will also substantially cut the use of expensive pesticides, cut production cost for farmers, reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals, and benefit consumers through lower price from higher eggplant production while protecting their health, and even enhancing environmental protection.

In order to expand availability of cheap seeds to farmers and therefore raise farmers? income, IPB plans to develop an open pollinated variety (OPV) for the Bt eggplant. This will enable resource-poor farmers to save the seeds after one planting for continued use in the next planting, bringing cost savings as the seeds will be available for free.

IPB will also produce hybrid varieties of Bt eggplant. This will have the hybrid vigor that can produce 100 percent more yield than the OPV, although this will require farmers to buy the seeds each season.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   TESTING OF (BT) EGGPLANT AT VSU TO PUSH THROUGH, SAYS OFFICIAL

SOURCE:  Leyte Samar Daily Express, Philippines

AUTHOR:  Reyan L. Arinto

URL:     http://leytesamardaily.net/2011/01/testing-of-bt-eggplant-at-vsu-to-push-through-says-official/

DATE:    15.01.2011

SUMMARY: "Field testing of Bacillus thuringiensis eggplants at the Visayas State University in Baybay, Leyte would push through, according to Dr. Edgardo Tulin, VSU vice-president for planning and research [...] ?We do not want to happen the incident in Davao where hundreds of Bt eggplants were uprooted because the university (University of the Philippines- Mindanao) allegedly failed to comply with the requirements of posting the Public Service Information at the municipal building,?"

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TESTING OF (BT) EGGPLANT AT VSU TO PUSH THROUGH, SAYS OFFICIAL

TACLOBAN CITY?Field testing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplants at the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay, Leyte would push through, according to a university official.

Dr. Edgardo Tulin, VSU vice-president for planning and research and in-charge of the proposed field test, said they still have to comply with the requirements set by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in the conduct of the field test.

?We do not want to happen the incident in Davao where hundreds of Bt eggplants were uprooted because the university (University of the Philippines- Mindanao) allegedly failed to comply with the requirements of posting the Public Service Information (PSI) at the municipal building,? Dr. Tulin told Leyte Samar Daily Express in a telephone interview.

Bt has been used to fortify the local eggplant variety to allow it to manufacture a protein that can protect the eggplant fruit by killing the dreaded fruits and stem borer that feeds on the fruit.

?We need to consult all stakeholders in Baybay and the surrounding communities of VSU. We have to follow procedures and we are guided by the Bureau of Plant Industry,? Tulin added.

Tulin said information activities on Bt technology have been conducted including their appearance at the municipal council of Baybay to explain regulatory guidelines on genetic engineering. PSI?s have also been posted in the immediate villages of Pangasugan and Guadalupe.

Baybay municipal officials, however, could not immediately be reached for comments.

Meanwhile, the BPI-Plant Quarantine Service in Tacloban City said they have yet to receive orders from BPI central office on the regulatory guidelines of the Bt eggplant field testing at VSU.

Virgilia Deloria, plant quarantine service officer, said her office would be in-charged of checking the status of the field testing from land preparation, planting until harvesting.

Deloria said handling of the specimens on the site is directly supervised by BPI through its project team manager.

In November last year, a group of farmers and scientists has called for the stoppage of testing of genetically-modified eggplants in Baybay, Leyte noting there are no safety data for the tests and their impact on nearby plants.

But Dr. Jose Bacusmo, VSU president, said in a statement that it is wrong to reject something without testing or doing research.

?I hope that decisions for the release of Bt eggplant would be based on gathered data from the trial sites. I am open to Bt eggplant and believes in the potential benefits it would bring to farmers,? Dr. Bacusmo said.

Bacusmo added farmers are already asking when the seeds of Bt eggplant would come out.

?They know spraying is risky but they have to save their crops because it is their livelihood?that is why if we could give crops that are safe to farmers, consumers and the environment, I think that is the best,? Bacusmo added.