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GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: Anti-GMO activists destroy Philippine Bt eggplants trial



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   ANTI-GMO ACTIVISTS DESTROY BT EGGPLANTS

SOURCE:  The Philippine Star, Philippines

AUTHOR:  Rudy A. Fernandez

URL:     http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=658993&publicationSubCategoryId=77

DATE:    20.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Anti-genetically modified crops activists have destroyed experimental GM eggplants being studied by the University of the Philippines Los Baños here. The activists reportedly belonging to Greenpeace, entered the UPLB research plots situated in the neighboring town of Bay and uprooted the Bt or transgenic eggplants about to be harvested. With members of the foreign and local media in tow, the intruders destroyed the fence of the ?off-limits? experimental area and uprooted the Bt-eggplants."

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ANTI-GMO ACTIVISTS DESTROY BT EGGPLANTS

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines ? Anti-genetically modified (GM) crops activists have destroyed experimental GM eggplants being studied by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) here.

The activists reportedly belonging to Greenpeace, entered the UPLB research plots situated in the neighboring town of Bay and uprooted the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or transgenic eggplants about to be harvested.

With members of the foreign and local media in tow, the intruders destroyed the fence of the ?off-limits? experimental area and uprooted the Bt-eggplants.

Arrival of members of the UP Los Baños police prevented the activists from causing more damage to the plants.

The intruders, who arrived here in vans and pick-ups, were later taken to the UPLB police station inside the UP Los Baños campus for interrogation.

Sources told The STAR that the activists included two Indians. The foreigners will be the subject of future complaint with their embassy in Manila, it was further gathered.

Further investigation is being conducted by the UP Los Baños police prior to the complaint?s endorsement to the Bay Police.

?We will be pursuing this case,? a UPLB official told this writer.

The intruders face such charges as forcible entry, damage to property, vandalism, and violation of government biosafety statutes.

The UPLB official pointed out that the vandals had affronted the ?academic freedom? of the university, stressing that such freedom is a well-enshrined right in the UP System.

This is the third time that anti-Bt activists destroyed experimental plants being studied in pursuit of biotechnology research in the Philippines.

About 10 years ago, a horde of violent anti-Bt corn demonstrators entered an experimental transgenic corn farm in Gen. Santos City and destroyed the crops.

In 2006, however, the government finally approved the commercial production of Bt corn in the Philippines.

Last December, anti-?Bt-talong? activists also uprooted GM eggplants within the UP Mindanao campus in Davao City.

Both the Bt-eggplants at UP Los Baños and UP Mindanao formed part of the second-to-the-final stage of the years-long study of genetically modified or transgenic eggplant in the Philippines.

The penultimate multi-location studies of the eggplant were programmed at the Pangasinan State University (PSU)-Sta. Maria campus; UP Los Baños; Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) in Pili, Camarines Sur; Iloilo (Sta. Barbara); Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City, Leyte; University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan, North Cotabato; and UP Mindanao.

After the multi-location trials, the government will decide on whether BT-eggplant will be produced commercially in the country.

Under the multi-phased project, UP Los Baños is developing an FSB-resistant eggplant in partnership with the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) in India and Cornell University (New York, USA). Mahyco has developed a highly resistant biotechnology eggplant now used in the Philippines, India, and Bangladesh as source of FSB-resistant traits.

Supporting the project are the Department of Agriculture (DA), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)-Biotechnology Information Center (BIC), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP).

The whole research process has four phases.

The first (contained research in laboratories and screenhouses) was conducted from 2006 to 2007 at the UPLB Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB).

The second (small confined trials) was done also at UPLB from 2007 to 2009.

In the third phase, the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) requires two experimental seasons before a GM crop is allowed for commercial release (final stage).



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   INDIAN ACTIVISTS HELP FILIPINOS DECONTAMINATE BT BRINJAL FIELD TRIAL SITE

SOURCE:  Business Standard, India

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/indian-activists-help-filipinos-decontaminate-bt-brinjal-field-trial-site/425666/

DATE:    18.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A Greenpeace decontamination unit, helped by Indian activists and provincial governments of the Philippines, today removed crops of Bt Brinjal from a field trial site in Barangay Paciano Rizal in Bay, Laguna, Philippines. This action was a follow up to calls made by the public and concerned sections of the society to put a stop to the field trials of the genetically modified brinjal. The crops were removed down till their roots and sealed in hazmat containers to prevent contamination of other fields and crops."

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INDIAN ACTIVISTS HELP FILIPINOS DECONTAMINATE BT BRINJAL FIELD TRIAL SITE

A Greenpeace decontamination unit, helped by Indian activists and provincial governments of the Philippines, today removed crops of Bt Brinjal from a field trial site in Barangay Paciano Rizal in Bay, Laguna, Philippines. This action was a follow up to calls made by the public and concerned sections of the society to put a stop to the field trials of the genetically modified (GM) brinjal. The crops were removed down till their roots and sealed in hazmat (hazardous materials) containers to prevent contamination of other fields and crops.

In an action which has clear relevance in India, the Greenpeace team was supported by organic farmers from Davao, Philippines, who had participated in a similar operation carried out by the provincial government of Davao in October last year. The Filipinos were helped by the proponents of sustainable agriculture from India, who have helped formulate the current moratorium on the proliferation of Bt eggplant in their country. After it was put on hold in India, Mahyco which developed Bt brinjal in India has been pushing for its approval in the Philippines, trying to use this as a back door entry for the crop into India.

The activity was held in support of massive protests against seven trial sites across the country. The local governments of 3 of these sites have issued resolutions banning the field trials in their areas, while permits for testing have already been cancelled for both Davao, Leyte and Iloilo. Similar statutes are still in process for Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur and North Cotabato, but the field trials are mostly already underway. (Field trials were started in Davao city but were destroyed upon the orders of City Mayor Duterte)

The resistance we see in the Philippines today is a reflection of what happened in India last year. ?Greenpeace is taking action today to prevent any further contamination from these hazardous GMO crops. This Bt brinjal experiment poses a threat to the environment and farmers? livelihoods aside from violating the spirit of the (Philippines?) Organic Agriculture Act, 2010. Once these experimental GMOs flower, their pollen can contaminate both conventional and organic crops, irreversibly damaging them,? said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture campaigner.

Even as India completes a year since Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Environment and Forests, called for an indefinite moratorium on Bt brinjal, the Indian government is in the process of expediting the re-approval process, bending its back to multinationals to permit GMOs into the country, and eyeing the possibility of an approval in the Philippines as a back door and legitimate entry of Bt brinjal into the country. While the farming communities, consumers, health specialists and environmentalists alike continue to raise their objections against GMOs, open air experiments on a variety of GM food crops are being conducted across the country. Of these, GM maize of Monsanto which has been banned by Germany and France has now reached large-scale field trials in India, which is just a step away from commercialisation.

?Such open experiments of GM food crops are a grave threat to our food safety as contamination from them is a reality.? said Shivani Shah, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, India. She further stated that ?It is unfortunate that even after so much of scientific information is available, which questions the safety of GM crops to health of the citizens and the environment, the Indian government is going ahead with mindless act of permitting numerous open air trials of such crops.?



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   GREENPEACE MOVES TO DECONTAMINATE BT EGGPLANT FIELD TRIAL SITE IN THE PHILIPPINES

SOURCE:  Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Philippines

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/news/Greenpeace-moves-to-decontaminate-Bt-eggplant-field-trial-site-in-the-Philippines/

DATE:    17.02.2011

SUMMARY: "A Greenpeace decontamination unit today removed genetically-engineered Bt eggplant, locally known as ?Talong?, from a field trial site in Barangay Paciano Rizal in Bay, Laguna, and sealed the experimental food crop in hazmat containers to prevent further contamination of neighboring fields and the environment. The Greenpeace activists were supported by organic farmers from Davao who had participated in a similar operation carried out by their provincial government last year."

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GREENPEACE MOVES TO DECONTAMINATE BT EGGPLANT FIELD TRIAL SITE IN THE PHILIPPINES

Bay, Laguna, Philippines - A Greenpeace decontamination unit today removed genetically-engineered Bt eggplant, locally known as ?Talong?, from a field trial site in Barangay Paciano Rizal in Bay, Laguna, and sealed the experimental food crop in hazmat (hazardous materials) containers to prevent further contamination of neighboring fields and the environment.

The Greenpeace activists were supported by organic farmers from Davao who had participated in a similar operation carried out by their provincial government last year.

?Greenpeace is taking action today to prevent any further contamination from these hazardous genetically engineered crops. This Bt eggplant experiment poses a threat to the environment and to farmers? livelihoods, aside from violating the spirit of the Organic Agriculture Act. Once these experimental GMOs (genetically modified organisms) flower, their pollen can contaminate both conventional and organic crops, irreversibly damaging them,? said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. ?The public has the right to a safe environment and to food sources that are not genetically engineered. If the authorities, such as the DA, fail to uphold those rights, then it becomes legitimate for others to do so.?

Greenpeace has called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to:

- Halt all Bt eggplant field trials in the Philippines and decontaminate all existing field trial sites with immediate effect;

- Implement the Organic Agriculture Act and ban genetic engineering of all food crops in the Philippines.

- To take an active role in supplying sufficient quantity and quality of non-Bt seeds and support organic and ecological agriculture practices.

Bt eggplant field trials commenced in 2010 despite massive protests by farmers and consumers. Of the seven selected trial sites, Davao City, Baybay in Leyte, and Sta. Barbara in Iloilo, have issued municipal and barangay resolutions banning the field trials. Similar statutes are still in process for Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur and North Cotabato, where field trials are already underway. Field trials were also conducted in Davao city last October but the plants were uprooted by the local government to uphold a resolution banning the trials.

?Like in India, there is no public support for Bt eggplant field trials and it is just not right for a few GMO proponents to conduct an open experiment that can inflict grave and possibly irreversible risks to an unsuspecting public,? added Shivani Shah, the sustainable agriculture campaigner from India who was on-hand to provide support to local efforts in implementing a shift to sustainable farming practices.

The Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant is genetically-modified to contain a built-in toxin to kill the fruit-and-shoot borer insect. It is currently not approved in any country including in India where the technology was sourced for use in the Philippines. Last February 2010, the government of India passed a moratorium on Bt eggplant commercialization to protect the country?s agriculture. In its decision, the Environment Ministry said that the science behind Bt eggplant is inadequate to answer the concerns raised by civil society groups, and that the country?s GMO regulatory system is inadequate.

An analysis of India?s Bt brinjal (eggplant) biosafety data by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, a French scientist, released in 2009 shows that the GMO eggplant is unsuitable for human consumption. The analysis concluded that Bt brinjal released into the environment, for food or feed, may present a serious risk for human and animal health.

?Greenpeace is urging DA Secretary Prospero Alcala to categorically ban all Bt Eggplant field trials. He has already stated that Bt eggplant will not be commercialized, which renders the field trials irrelevant. Safety concerns on Bt eggplant are still unanswered, and the risks are even more disturbing given the Philippines? very lax and permissive regulatory systems. Only by halting the further entry and approvals of genetically engineered food crops can the DA achieve its goal of food security and sustainable agriculture in the country,? concluded Ocampo.

Greenpeace campaigns for agriculture that is good for the planet and people; healthy food grown with the environment ? not against it; and farming that will help us cope with climate change.