Farmers speak, push for continuation of BT eggplant field trials , biotech education PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 October 2010 13:43

More than a hundred farmers and agriculture representatives from CAR, CARAGA, and the thirteen regions of the country unanimously endorsed the continuation of the multi-location field trials of the fruit and shoot borer resistant Bt eggplant in the Philippines.

The farmers believe that the Bt eggplant, being resistant to a major pest of the crop (fruit and shoot borer), would be very beneficial to them as they have experienced with Bt corn. Bt corn has been adopted by more than 125,000 corn farmers in the Philippines since 2003.

Felicito Osorio, Board Member of PhilMaize and ASFARNET Philippines, who also represents COBAS, SFAMPC/PFAC from CARAGA, Region 13 said that the multi-location trial of Bt eggplant must be pushed as most of them, farmers, are already looking forward to the Bt eggplant seeds which is expected to raise their productivity, improve their livelihood and reduce their health hazards due to widespread pesticide use.

This resolution was made in the “2nd National Agri-biotech Farmers Conference: Productivity and Sustainability through Agri-biotechnology”, organized by the Asian Farmers Regional Network (ASFARNET) in October 4, 2010, at the Reina Mercedes Post Harvest Facility, Reina Mercedes, Isabela.

The support for the Bt eggplant field trials was just one in the set of resolutions that the farmers have settled on for the improvement of the country’s agricultural status.

They also recognized and supported the coexistence of biotech crops, including genetically modified organisms, and organic farming.

Reynaldo Cabanao, President of ASFARNET Philippines, emphasized that the decision to adopt the technology is with the farmers. “You can say ‘I use organic fertilizer on the Bt eggplant I cultivate,” he said in Filipino. He also stressed that the important thing is that farmers have available choices.

Edwin Paraluman, a farmer leader from General Santos City and Regional Coordinator of ASFARNET said that the organization’s advocacy is “farmers’ choice.” “If you want organic, go on with the organic; if you want Bt, go on. It is the farmer who will reap the profit. But to say that we will not plant Bt crops, that is not right,” said Paraluman.

Furthermore, the farmers pushed for the continuous information dissemination, education, and communication of biotechnology to farmers and the media, upon learning the advantages of future products of crop biotechnology. Antonio Berlan, farmer and MAFC, PIAT, from Cagayan raised that small farmers should be reached and be informed on the science, safety, issues and benefits of this technology. He added that farmers’ voice should be heard as they are the user of the technology.

The farmers established these stands after a thorough discussion on the social, agricultural and environmental problems of the Philippines, and the potential of biotechnology in helping alleviate those.

The farmers believe that the multi-location field trials were essential, not only for the regulatory processes, but also for the establishment of its safety and good performance. The group also recognized that the field trials were already approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry.

Most of the farmers in the conference were also eggplant growers. The Bt eggplant, according to economic impact studies, could raise farmers’ income by Php50,000 due to reduction in pesticide use and labor cost. The Bt eggplant technology is also expected to improve the health of the farmers who are exposed to the health risks associated with the chemical pesticides.

Aside from the promotion of biotechnology, the farmers also resolved to endorse the restoration of the Php8 billion NFA budget for rice and corn. From their experiences, the NFA has helped in “stabilizing” the price of their produce.

Restoration of the seed subsidy of hybrid rice and corn was also moved.

The conference was conducted back-to-back with the 7th Philippine National Corn Congress, which was held October 5-8.

To view/download the resolution, click this link below:

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