Scientists broke biosafety law in releasing Bt ‘talong’
Some scientists insist that Bt talong (eggplant) is “safe” and brand the Supreme Court—which banned the further release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the Philippine environment in a recent ruling—as “antiscience.” But the scientists who proposed to release the genetically modified vegetable into the environment broke the law that ensures the safety of such releases, the National Biosafety Framework (NBF).
Despite claims by scientists that Bt eggplant is completely safe, its proponents as well as regulatory agencies failed to conduct independent risk assessments as required by the NBF. Under the framework, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is required to conduct assessments on the impacts identified in biosafety decisions. The Supreme Court ruling quoted Carmelo Segui of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, who admitted that the agency lacked funds and the competence to conduct these assessments.
Although not stated in the high court’s ruling, the NBF also requires other agencies to play a role in determining the impact of biosafety decisions on health and the socioeconomic situation, among others. For instance, the Department of Health is required to formulate guidelines in assessing the health impacts posed by modern biotechnology and its applications, and to require, review and evaluate results of relevant environmental health impact assessments. It is also required to take the lead in evaluating and monitoring processed food derived from or containing GMOs.
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