Greenpeace slams DA on Bt Eggplant

Demands a stop to experimental field trials

Press release - October 29, 2010
Greenpeace slammed the Department of Agriculture (DA) for failing to put the brakes on planned field trials of the genetically engineered (GE) Bt eggplant, even as more provinces are banning what are essentially risky genetic experiments in their localities. Greenpeace is warning the government to heed the example of India, which has declared a moratorium on the commercialization of the genetically modified vegetable on safety concerns.

“The DA has to be more on the ball when it comes to the Bt talong issue.  Once again the Philippines is accepting another country’s rejects.  A few years ago, the government wanted us to eat genetically-tainted US rice that other countries refused to import.  Now they want to turn the country into a guinea pig for a risky experimental food crop already rejected by India.  This is scandalous and completely unacceptable. What is the DA thinking?” said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture campaigner.

“GE crop field trials are experiments that cannot yield any success because they are inherently risky. Bt eggplant field trials will endanger conventional eggplant varieties with irreversible genetic contamination and will eventually threaten farmers’ livelihoods.  It will also put at risk the health of Filipinos.  No GMO has ever been proven safe for human consumption and the evidence that these organisms pose long-term threats is growing. The DA must listen to provinces who have refused to be part of this folly,” he added.

Two of the seven selected sites for field trials -- the City of Davao and Sta Barbara, Iloilo -- have already issued provincial resolutions to ban field testing.  Other proposed test sites in Pangasinan, Laguna, Camarines Sur, Leyte, and North Cotabato are in the process of passing similar statutes.  Recent reports state that Bt eggplant proponents now refuse to divulge the date and time of planting, in blatant disregard of the public’s right to know of matters that have serious implications on community health.  Incidentally, the DA’s go-ahead for Bt eggplant testing was given under a similar non-consultative process.

Bt eggplant is a GE crop that has a built-in pesticide intended to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borer insect.[1]  As with all GMOs, no long-term studies on the effects on humans and the environment has ever been conducted.  Moreover, GMO field tests are particularly risky.  Pollen in an uncontained environment will travel and cause the GE crop to crossbreed with conventional varieties.  The effects are near impossible to reverse, and the GE crop industry currently offers no solutions.  The most serious example of such experimental contamination is the Bayer LL601 GE rice case.  Planted as an experiment in 2001 in Arkansas, USA and subsequently abandoned as a failure, it silently contaminated US rice stocks in three states and was not detected until 2006.[2]

Bt eggplant was developed based on experiments done on eggplant in India, but plans for its commercialization in the country were halted early this year due to safety concerns. Last month, Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, an eminent geneticist and member of the Indian Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, sent a letter to  DA Secretary Prospero Alcala urging a halt on the field trials pending an actual assessment of the need for the GE crop has been determined, and if there is, after proper laboratory testing have been carried out.

“Even before one decides to develop a genetically modified crop, one must determine if it is needed and if so, if there are cheaper and better alternatives.  In the case of Brinjal (eggplant), we certainly do not need it in India, and the alternatives to the Bt gene in the Brinjal are many, such as organic agriculture, integrated pest management and use of biopesticides," said Dr. Bhargava.  "There are known and established numerous health, agricultural, environmental, and social hazards of open release of GE crops.  In no case so far, any of these hazards have been evaluated properly, professionally and objectively; in the case of most hazards, no evaluation has been done at all for any GE crop till today."

Greenpeace maintains that GE crops are not the way forward to sustainable agriculture.  Neither are GE crops endorsed by the IAASTD (International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) [3] as a solution to food security.

“It would be a grave mistake for the DA to pursue the field trials for Bt eggplant.  We are calling on Secretary Alcala to stop the GE Bt eggplant trials and instead focus on technologies that will give the most benefit to farmers and consumers such as ecological agriculture which does not rely on GE crops or agrochemicals,” said Ocampo.

Greenpeace campaigns for GMO-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food.  Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity, and poses unacceptable risks to health.

Contact Details:

Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, +63917 8976416, (632) 4146512 loc 112,

JP Agcaoili, Media Campaigner, +63917 6312750, (632) 414 6512 loc 121,

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Notes to Editors:

[1] Summary of Development of Bt Brinjal (eggplant) by Mahyco
http://www.envfor.nic.in/divisions/csurv/geac/information_brinjal.htm
[2] http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/bayer-cropscience-contaminates/
[3] http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/genetic-engineering-not-a-prio/