These past few months have been a whirlwind of forums and meetings with different groups including NGOs, the church, farmers, students, women, organic traders etc. - all because of the plans to commercialise Monsanto's Bt eggplant in the Philippines by 2011 even after India has rejected it.
The Philippines is a country that has a very favourable policy in approving geneticalling engineered (GE) crops. Even the regulatory process is biased towards approving them since it is not an application process but an approval process for commercial release. We now have more then 50 GE crops approved for food, feed and processing and four types of GE corn approved for propagation. The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has commercialised a GE food crop.
Last year we defended the right of Negros province to ban GE crops. This year we are fighting against the Bt eggplant field trials in 7 locations in different parts of the country.
Two sites have passed resolutions to ban the field trials: Davao City and the municipality of Sta. Barbara in Iloilo Province. And two more sites have started the process of banning the field trials. But despite the resolutions, the University of Mindanao and the Institute of Plant Breeding proceeded with the field trials - violating the ordinance on organic agriculture of Davao City.
I was there recently talking to our allies: farmers, organic producers and traders and talking about what to do. We are hoping to decontaminate the site and have been trying to convince the city mayor to issue an order to destroy the trial site. Proponents are saying it's not an open field trial but a confined field test. I told them terminologies won't stop GE contamination. When you take a GE crop outside of the laboratory it's already contaminating our environment.
Well the good news is that Mayor Sara Duterte of Davao issued a cease and desist order for the trial site and ordered the uprooting of the genetically modified eggplants. And last month I got one of the best text messages of the year: "Uprooting of Bt eggplant ongoing with the supervision of the City Agriculture Office." (click here to view the official cease-and-desist order)
Our allies in Davao and the rest of the Philippines are celebrating... indeed there's is still hope to stop GE crops in our country!
You can read more about this story in the local news.
Daniel Ocampo is a Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia in the Philippines.