Philippines: No field testing for Bt talong
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Philippines: No field testing for Bt talong

On December 8 2015, the Supreme Court, in a decision in four consolidated cases (GR Nos 209271, 209276, 209301 and 209430) permanently enjoined the field testing for Bt talong (genetically modified eggplant), declared the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No 08, series of 2002 (DAO 08) as null and void, and temporarily enjoined any application for contained use, field testing, propagation, commercialisation, and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with the law.

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This case arose from a petition filed on April 26 2012 by Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines), a regional office of Greenpeace International, a non-governmental environmental organisation known for its campaign to preserve the environment and promote peace, and some Filipino scientists, professors and ordinary citizens invoking their constitutional right, and the right of future generations of Filipinos, to health and balanced ecology. The objection was directed to the research and development project partly funded by the USAID, on eggplants that are resistant to the fruit and shoot borer.

As quoted by the Supreme Court from the field trial proposal of the project proponents, the crystal toxin genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) were incorporated into the eggplant (talong) genome to produce the protein Cry1Ac which is toxic to the targeted fruit and shoot borer, the most destructive of insect pest of eggplants.

Greenpeace claimed that the required environmental compliance certificate was not obtained prior to project implementation; no independent peer-reviewed study on the safety of Bt talong for human consumption and the environment was conducted; no public consultation was made on the areas chosen for field testing, hence, the precautionary principle must be applied. The petitioners argued that the precautionary principle did not apply because the field testing is only part of a continuing study being done to ensure that the field trials have no significant and negative impact on the environment, and that the issues raised by Greenpeace involved technical matters pertaining to the special competence of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) whose determination is entitled to great respect, and charged with the implementation of DAO 08 which covers the importation or release into the environment of any plant which has been altered or produced thru the use of modern biotechnology, etc and EO 514 on the National Biosafety Framework (NBF).

In its decision, the Supreme Court found that the petitioners-government agencies clearly failed to fulfil their duties in the implementation of the NBF, and held that the precautionary rule finds direct application in the evaluation of evidence presented in this case, considering that the Philippines is signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Cartagena Protocol, a supplementary agreement to the CBD, ratified by the Philippine Congress.

The Supreme Court further stated that the precautionary principle should be treated as a principle of last resort where the application of the regular rules of evidence would cause an inequitable result for the environmental plaintiff, and when the features of uncertainty, the possibility of irreversible harm and the possibility of serious harm coincide, the case for the precautionary principle is strongest.

Hechanova_Editha-100

Editha R Hechanova


Hechanova & Co., Inc.Chemphil Bldg.851 Antonio Arnaiz AvenueMakati City 1223, PhilippinesTel: (63) 2 812-6561Fax: (63) 2 888-4290editharh@hechanova.com.ph  www.hechanova.com.ph

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