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SC asked to stop production of genetically modified eggplants

Activists wear vegetable monster costumes as Greenpeace trooped to the Supreme Court yesterday to seek a TRO on the commercial production of genetically modified eggplants. Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines - An international environmental group trooped to the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday in a bid to stop the commercial production of genetically modified (GMO) eggplants that they said pose danger to human health.

In a 68-page petition, Greenpeace asked the high court to issue a writ of Kalikasan and temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the ongoing field testing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplants, a genetically modified variety that produces its own pesticide, in four provinces.

“The GMO Bt talong was destined for commercial approval by the end of 2011, but due to non-conduct of field trials in four places, the proponents have failed to secure commercial approval. However, this crop is still planned to be field-tested. Such testing will expose the Philippines to GMO contamination of more than 500 varieties of eggplant and other wild and weedy relatives,” the group argued.

The group was joined by former senator Orlando Mercado, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn and other concerned representatives of various sectors in seeking relief from the high tribunal.

Petitioners alleged that the new crop could endanger consumers because it damages the internal organs. With its built-in insect-resistance gene, Bt eggplant can also create aggressive weeds that may wreak havoc on local agriculture and natural habitats.

They cited results of a 90-day laboratory test, conducted by proponents of genetically modified organisms on mice fed with the new Bt eggplant, which showed signs of toxicity in the liver and kidneys of the test subjects.

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In December 2010, the local government of Davao City took a precautionary action by uprooting Bt eggplant trials being conducted by the UP Mindanao Foundation.

On a general perspective, they pointed out the lack of long-term study to prove that GMO would be safe for human consumption.

“The government’s GMO approval system is hopelessly flawed and biased towards the release and propagation of GMOs in the country. The government’s pro-GMO approach is unfortunately resulting in a massive and uncontrolled unleashing of GMOs into our diets and our environment,” the petitioners noted.

They raised the same concern over other GMOs now being circulated in the market.

“Not one GMO application for commercial release has been disapproved or rejected despite the absence of conclusive proof that such open releases are safe for the environment and human health,” Greenpeace stressed.

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