ILAGAN CITY, Isabela: More and more farmers in the Cagayan Valley region are giving approval for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant cultivation which will spare farmers and consumers from harmful chemical sprays.
In the Public Dialogue on Bt Eggplant held at the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Cagayan Valley Regional Experiment Station here on late July 22, more than a hundred farmers and agriculture stakeholders from Cagayan Valley affirmed their support for Bt eggplant.
During the public dialogue, the farmers signed a declaration of support for the commercial planting of Bt eggplant acknowledging that the project followed the national biosafety regulatory protocols, and that modern biotech and its products in the market have passed international standards, among others.
A long-time eggplant farmer from Isabela, Manuel Espiritu said he has no doubts on the safety of Bt eggplant. “Without this, fruit and shoot borer damage indeed significantly decreases my income,” he said.
The dialogue was led by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC) in collaboration with the DA, Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council and the Asian Farmers Regional Network in Region 2.
SEARCA Director Dr. Gil Saguiguit Jr. said the public dialogue was organized in response to the farmers’ request to know more about Bt eggplant.
The dialogue clarified the issues on the science, safety and potential benefits of Bt eggplant in the country with International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications Senior Program Officer Dr. Rhodora Aldemita who gave an overview of agri-biotech and its global adoption status.
Bt eggplant study leaders from the University of the Philippines Los Baños Dr. Lourdes Taylo and Mario Navasero introduced Bt eggplant technology into the country.
Saguiguit said topics tackled during the dialogue were an ex-ante study on the socioeconomic benefits of Bt eggplant, the food and environmental safety of biotech crops and the Philippine biosafety regulatory system, and safety assessment of biotech crops.
Experts said Bt eggplant has the protein gene from a naturally occurring soil bacterium, the Bt, that can fight the fruit and shoot borer. Bt has been considered an organic, environment-friendly spray.
Most consumed vegetable
The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) said eggplant is the most consumed vegetable in the Philippines much like in other Asian countries including Bangladesh and India.
According to BAS, eggplant production in the Philippines as of 2009 reached P3.13 billion for 200,942 metric tons planted on 21,170 hectares mostly found in the provinces of Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, and Quezon as well as Cebu.
BAS also said that as of 2009, there was an estimated 30,243 eggplant farmers in the country planting on an average of 7,000 square meters of cultivated land.