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Philippines: Comm'l production of GM eggplant, papaya seen in 2 yrs

Within two years, the Philippines will be a commercial producer of genetically modified (GM) eggplant and papaya. This is the timetable of studies being done at the University of the Philippines Los BaŮos-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB).
In a 1.5-hectare fenced field experimental area within the sprawling UPLB complex, GM eggplants are lushly growing while biotech papaya plants have just been transplanted.

The progress of the project was assessed during a recent field day by representatives of international and national agencies supporting it, members of the research sector, and journalists, including this writer. Among those present were Dr. Clive James, chairman of the New York-based International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA); Dr. Randy Hautea, ISAAA global coordinator; Dr. Frank Shotkoski, director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) II-Southeast Asia; Executive Director Patricio Faylon of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD); UPLB vice chancellor Enrico Supangco; and UPLB-IPB officials led by Director Jose Hernandez.

The research on eggplant is being undertaken by UPLB-IPB in partnership with the Indian Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd. (Mahyco). It is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through ABSP II, EMERGE, and ISAAA. Mahyco has developed a high-resistant biotech eggplant with help from Monsanto Co. These eggplant lines have been used as source of the protection of biotech eggplants in India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. Dr. Desiree Hautea of UPLB-IPB told this writer in an interview that the eggplants were transplanted inside the fenced field last Dec. 21.

The seeds from the eggplants to be harvested will be used in the subsequent multi-location trials, which constitute the next phase of the multi-stage research process. The first phase was the seedling establishment inside a greenhouse. The first trial in the two-season multi-location experiments will be done in three to four selected areas in Luzon. The second will be conducted in about 10 sites in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The GM eggplant is expected to be commercialized by 2010 upon approval by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI).

The new plant type is projected to be the answer to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), the most destructive pest attacking eggplant in Asia. In the Philippines, for instance, losses from FSB range from 51 to 73%. To date, there is no FSB-resistant commercial eggplant variety. Eggplant is now the country's top vegetable crop, covering about 20,000 hectares and yielding annually 179,000 tons valued at about P2 billion. The same process will be followed for the biotech papaya.

The papaya plants were transplanted last Feb. 8 and are expected to be harvested by November or December 2008, Dr. Pablito Magdalita told this writer. This will be followed by the multi-location trials in Luzon and in the Visayas, and eventually the commercialization. The new plant type is resistant to papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), which has been the scourge of the papaya industry since it was first discovered in Silang, Cavite, in 1982. It has since spread to other parts of the country, except Mindanao.

Infected papaya plants have stunted growth and produced deformed fruits with concentric rings on the skin surface. Eventually, the plants die. A flagship biotech program of PCARRD, the papaya research is a collaborative effort with ISAAA, ABSI II, USAID, the UPLB-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), and Program for Biosafety Systems.

Source: truthabouttrade.org

Publication date: 3/11/2008


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