The Supreme Court (SC) en banc has ruled that field testing for genetically modified eggplant, also known as “Bt talong,” will be permanently stopped.
During SC deliberations, it affirmed findings of the Court of Appeals (CA), stating that it has not committed any error of judgment in permanently stopping field trials for “Bt talong.”
The appellate court had ruled that existing regulations by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Science and Technology are “insufficient to guarantee the safety of the environment and the health of the people.”
In the meantime, the High Court, sitting en banc, ruled that applications for the contained use, field testing, propagation, commercialization and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) shall be “temporarily” halted.
It said the appellate court’s findings that scientists failed to come up with a consensus on the safety of “Bt talong” reflected the “divergent” and “continuing international debate” on GMOs.
“In sum, current scientific research indicates that the biotech industry has not sufficiently addressed the uncertainties over the safety of genetically modified foods and crops,” the SC added.
The SC en banc ruled that GMO field trials in the Philippines under DA Order 08-2002 showed that the administrative order does not meet the minimum requirements for safety under Executive Order (EO) 514, which established the National Biosafety Framework (NBF).
“The court found that the NBF under EO 514 mandates a more transparent, meaningful and participatory public consultation on the conduct of consultations with some residents and government officials, and submission of written comments as provided in Order 08-2002.”
It also “found that petitioners simply followed Order 08-2002 but no real effort was made to operationalize the principles of the NBF in the conduct of field testing of Bt talong.”
As such, the SC said, the Agriculture department lacks the mechanisms to mandate applicants to comply with international biosafety protocols.
The CA had said “overall safety guarantee of the ‘Bt talong’ ‘remains unknown.’”