PHL court orders end to genetically-modified eggplant field trials

The Court of Appeals has ruled that the field trials for genetically-modified, pest-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong (eggplant) have not yet proven the plants to be safe for humans and the environment.

In a 24-page decision, the CA Special 13th Division issued a "writ of kalikasan" ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned government agencies to stop the trials.


Precautionary measure

The court said that, as a "precautionary" measure, the field testings should be stopped in the absence of "full scientific certainty" that they are safe to humans and the environment.

“It is clear that there is no full scientific certainty yet as to the effects of the bt talong field trials to the environment and the health of the people,” said the appellate court.

“(F)ield trials of bt talong could not be declared by this Court as safe to human health and to our ecology, with full scientific certainty, it being an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology.”

The court said as long as "scientifically plausible" field testings remain "scientifically uncertain," actions should be taken to avoid and diminish the possible threats and damage to environment they may cause.

The ruling was penned by CA Associate Justice Isaias Dicdican, with CA Associate Justices Myra Garcia-Fernandez and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela concurring.

Marissa Cruz of the DENR Public Affairs Office told GMA News Online that the agency has yet to receive a copy of the ruling and could not comment on it yet.

Bt eggplants are a genetically-engineered to be pest-resistant against insects that eat into its fruits and shoots.

Scientists', farmers' petition

The case started when a group of scientists, farmers, and other concerned individuals earlier asked the Supreme Court to stop the government from introducing genetically engineered eggplants to Philippine soil, citing health and environmental hazards.

In a 68-page petition for continuing mandamus and Writ of Kalikasan, the petitioners oppossed the government's field testing of Bt talong.

The government has been conducting field tests for Bt talong since 2010 in Pangasinan, Camarines Sur, Davao City, Laguna, and North Cotabato.

But in its petition, the petitioners said the project proponents of Bt talong did not only fail to secure the necessary environmental compliance certificate, but did not consult the respective local government units, non-government organizations and other sectors.

"Bt talong is a classic environmental case where scientific evidence as to the health and environemntal safety and socio-economic impact is insufficent, inconclusive or uncertain," the petitioners said.

The Supreme Court eventually issued a writ of kalikasan on May 2, 2012 and remanded the petition to the Court of Appeals for hearings on the scientific and factual questions involved. — TJD, GMA News

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