SC allows biotechnology group to intervene in Bt eggplant case – BCP

By , on September 9, 2014

The Supreme Court of the Philippines building in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Mike Gonzalez / Wikimedia Commons.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines building in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Mike Gonzalez / Wikimedia Commons.

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP) to intervene into the Bt eggplant case as the Bt eggplant “ban” threatens other genetically modified (GM) crops that contribute to food security, the biotechnology group announced Tuesday.

In a statement released to media, BCP said that in a resolution signed by the clerk of court, the SC allowed their group to be a party to the Bt eggplant case involving the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) and the Europe-based activist group Greenpeace.

The case before the SC stemmed from a legal victory of Greenpeace which somehow managed to secure a decision from Court of Appeals (CA) stopping UPLB scientists from completing field trials for a biotech eggplant variety called “Bt Talong.”

The CA issued on May 17, 2013 a ban on the development and commercial release of Bt eggplant through its issuance of a writ of Kalikasan, supposedly a protection against grave adverse effects of an activity to the environment.

It was along with a Temporary Environmental Protection Order or TEPO.

With this, UPLB, along with several government agencies, have gone to the SC to appeal the CA decision.

The BCP then filed an “urgent motion for leave to intervene as petitioner” in the Bt eggplant case, asserting its members will be adversely affected by any permanent decision to ban the genetically-modified (GM) eggplant.

Since the technology used in Bt eggplant is virtually the same as in Bt corn and other GM crops, BCP stakeholders fear the threat of a similar ban in the entire GM crops sector.

In its urgent petition to the High Court, BCP said that “the CA decision and resolution certainly pose a ‘clear and present danger’ to the biotechnology sector and threatens BCP and its members with direct and immediate injury.”

It asserted its legal standing to intervene as its members are into the development of GM products that resolve perennial problems on food security.

These are the pro Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice; GM papaya ring spot virus and delayed ripening papaya; Bt cotton which is resistant to the highly-infesting bollworm; GM abaca, eyed to be resistant to viral diseases bunchy top, mosaic, and bract mosaic that threaten Philippines USD 100 million abaca fiber export.

GM technology uses modern techniques of inserting into crops, including eggplants, a DNA from other organisms that has the desired trait.

In the case of the Bt eggplant, it was developed by UPLB through the use of modern biotechnology techniques by introducing a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, to the common eggplant that made it resistant to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB).

UPLB scientists led by Dr. Desiree Hautea, project leader of the FSBR/Bt Project under UPLB’s Institute of Plant Breeding, said that countless field tests have shown that while the protein in Bt eggplant is only lethal to FSB, it does not affect humans, farm animal or other insects and have shown no adverse effects to the environment.

In the meantime, BCP told the SC that “the entire biotechnology community simply cannot afford to allow the CA decision to stand as this will pave the way for future attacks against other GM products such as Golden Rice, Bt cotton, GM papaya and GM abaca.”

The biotechnology group likewise asserted that respondent Greenpeace does not experience injury from the CA decision.

“Greenpeace does not have assets or properties affected by the Bt talong field trials. Greenpeace has no actual, direct and immediate stake in the subject of the litigation,” the BCP petition stated.

Like Greenpeace, another anti-GM group MASIPAG “failed to show in the Kalikasan petition how it or any of its members suffered concrete prejudice as a result of the Bt talong field trials.”

“They merely alleged in the Kalikasan petition that they were ‘citizens’ suing in the exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed rights,” stated BCP.

The Kalikasan writ issued by CA appeared to show that there was immense destruction brought about by the Bt eggplant field testing.

But never had this been evident in the field trials of Bt eggplant which had been successfully completed for some two years now.

Greenpeace also skipped on the authority of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

“The power to issue biosafety permits for field trials of GMOs is lodged with the BPI,” said BCP.

BCP said that BPI has issued a permit for the Bt eggplant field testing – proving that BPI never found the field testing to have “significant risks to human health and the environment.”