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Philippines: GM aubergines field-tested for approval

(29 July 2010) In the Philippines, the approval of genetically modified (GM) aubergines has moved a step closer. The vegetables are resistant to a prominent pest and may enter the market as early as 2011.

Before the Philippine government decides on approval, GM crops must undergo two cultivation periods on open land after extensive preliminary testing.

A working group at the University of the Philippines Los Baños already has tested the GM aubergine for a season on the island of Luzon. The second series of experiments is planned for the end of the year. Subsequently, the GM aubergine could be cultivated commercially as early as 2011.

Aubergines are the most important vegetable crop in the Philippines and are cultivated on approximately 20,000 hectares.

With the support of the Indian seed company Mahyco, Philippine scientists developed a genetically engineered aubergine. Due to a newly-inserted gene, the aubergine produces a Bt protein that acts against the aubergine fruit borer.

The pest is widespread in Asia and can be responsible for harvest loss of as much as 70 per cent. Cultivation of the Bt aubergines is expected drastically to reduce application of the chemical pesticides currently used to combat the insect.

Next to China, India is the largest producer of aubergines worldwide. An approval application for the Bt aubergine has been submitted in India as well. After several years of field testing and preparatory studies, the responsible federal bureau concluded in 2009 that the aubergine is as safe as conventional aubergines. This triggered strong protest from environmental and consumer groups. The Indian government will not approve the GM aubergine at present. First, further independent scientific research should be conducted on possible long-term impact on the environment and health.


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