Execs restrict tests of genetic ‘talong’ in Davao
DAVAO CITY—Tests of genetically modified organisms (GMO) would be allowed in the city only on condition these are done in a “strictly confined environment.”
This was the message of city officials on Friday to proponents of Bt “talong,” a genetically modified variety of eggplant.
In a forum, city agriculturist Leonardo Avila III said the city government would allow tests of Bt talong only in laboratories using pollen tents and wire mesh with very small holes to prevent the accidental release of pollen into the air or soil.
“We want them to really put up the infrastructures where the mesh could not even allow pollen or bees to get inside,” he said.
Merle Palacpac, chair of the Bureau of Plant Industry’s biotech core team, said the city government wanted “contained trials,” which was already done at the UP Los Baños laboratory in the past.
She said the contained trials were held before field trials of Bt talong were conducted and there was no need for a confined testing anymore.
But Avila said the city government was steadfast about the confined environment requirement.
He said if GMO proponents could not comply with the requirement, the city government will not allow the field tests of Bt talong to resume.
In December, Mayor Sara Duterte ordered the uprooting of Bt talong plants inside the UP Mindanao campus in Barangay Mintal because of lack of coordination by its proponent.
The decision was hailed by the Go Organic Davao (GoDC), a coalition of practitioners and advocates of organic agriculture.
“Organic farming and integrated pest management have proven there are effective methods in controlling pests in eggplants. This is the reason eggplant remains to be one of the most affordable vegetables in the market today,” the group said.
GoDC also said even UP’s Institute of Plant Breeding in Los Baños has done research on the resistance of hundreds of eggplant genotypes against pests.
“This just proves that alternatives do exist in controlling pests. Creating Bt eggplant is not the only option,” the group said.
Dr. Romeo Quijano, a renowned toxicologist, said Bt crops have been modified with genes from the Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally-occurring soil bacteria, so they could produce toxins that would kill pests.
“What is clear, and this one does not need an expert opinion, is that Bt eggplants are dangerous as they are toxins—toxins by definition are deadly,” Quijano recently said. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao
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