Friday, January 15, 2016
Philippines blocks testing for the GMO BT Eggplant
The Philippine Supreme Court has issued an order prohibiting the conduct of field trials of Bt eggplant, a genetically modified eggplant, and nullifying Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8, which regulates field trials and release into the environment of genetically modified plants.
The Court held that the scientists do not have a consensus on the safety of Bt eggplant and the divergent views reflect the international debate on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the varying degrees of acceptance of the technology worldwide, especially in developed countries. The Court said that, after a review of the scientific literature, they arrived at the conclusion that "current scientific research indicates the biotech industry has not sufficiently addressed the uncertainties over the safety of GM foods and crops." The Court found Administrative Order No. 8 fails to meet the minimum requirements of safety under Executive Order No. 514, which established National Biosafety Framework.
The Court also applied the precautionary principle - that lack of scientific certainty is no reason for inaction at the risk of potentially serious or irreversible harm to the environment. It held that the three conditions for applying the said principle: (a) risks of harm are uncertain; (b) harm might be irreversible and what is lost is irreplaceable; and (c) harm that might result is serious, are present in the case, based on the Court's assessment of the evidence on record as well as the current state of GMO research worldwide.
The ruling is a potential blow to biotechnology research in the Philippines and investments in this area. It is ironic that this is an area of research that the Philippines excels in, with the Internatioanl Rice Research Institute headquartered in the Philippines.