Banana growers oppose GM field-testing in Mindanao

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DAVAO CITY — Major banana growers and exporters said they oppose a plan to conduct field-testing of genetically modified (GM) bananas in Mindanao, saying this will affect the marketability of the region’s produce.

Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA), said in an interview last week that such trials pose a danger to the country’s second-biggest agricultural export commodity as “it might send a wrong signal to the markets where we sell our bananas.”

Mr. Antig said those behind the plan to conduct the test should consult industry stakeholders.

“They must remember that any news will have a very huge impact on the industry,” he cautioned.

It was reported on a local television network in November that researchers from Australia are planning to carry out field trials for GM bananas that will address Fusarium wilt, also known as the Panama disease.

Mr. Antig pointed out that local researchers, among them those in the Department of Agriculture, have already developed varieties that are resistant to Fusarium wilt.

The tissues for these new varieties that have been cultured are ready for propagation and could be distributed as planting materials to growers, particularly the small-scale farmers.

The PBGEA official said the government should provide assistance to smallholders in accessing available solutions instead of allowing other countries to intervene.

“We should be cautious in order not to compound our problems,” he said, noting that introducing GM bananas might just create other problems.

Philippine banana exporters have long been trying but have yet to penetrate the Australian market. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

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