Monday, December 20, 2010

The Curious Case of an Eggplant

Heretics are those people who do not wholly conform to the medieval Church's doctrines. Usually the punishments of heresy are either excommunication or death. Take Galileo Galilei as an example. He was accused of heresy by the Catholic Church because of his scientific claims regarding heliocentrism; that the Sun is the center of the solar system, not Earth as what the Catholic Church once believed. Even after his death in 1642, the request of erecting a mausoleum in his honor was denied by Pope Urban VIII and his nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini because he was condemned by the Catholic Church for "vehement suspicion of heresy".

Last December 17, 2010 a similar incident occurred. No, the Catholic Church was not involved on it but it was the local government, who acted like Pope Urban VIII.

The local government had ordered UPMin to uproot all of its Bacillus thuringiensis(Bt) eggplants from its testing site. This is also the same day when almost all UPMin students and administration officers went to People’s Park to celebrate their annual lantern parade. Should the uprooting activity was held before or after the lantern parade, the invasion of the uprooters would have been prevented. It was truly one of the darkest days of UP Mindanao.

News and opinions regarding this issue have circulated over the internet. One article had caught the attention of the students and some professors of the university. According to that article, the writer said that UPMin should stop this stupidity as the exercise is nothing but a gross insanity (1). With all due respect to the writer, the university had meticulously studied this technology and has been proven safe, based on the experiments conducted by both local and foreign scientists (2). This technology will reduce the use of pesticides to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borers. The gene inserted to the eggplant effectively protects it from these pests. I just cannot fully understand as to why the locals opted to believe the claims of an Indian scientist instead of a Filipino scientist.

Branding UPMin as stupid and arrogant is really demoralizing. The funny thing was, those people responsible for that derogatory claim do not EVEN know the science behind it. UPMin is mandated to do research and development for the betterment of the nation, ergo we know what we are doing. We are exerting too much effort with regards to addressing the current issues of our country. The university itself is not that stupid to pour all of its resources if they found out that the research won’t have any benefits to the nation.

No matter how hard we try to tell the science about it, even if it’s already in layman’s term, they won’t listen. They just wanted to uproot all the Bt eggplants from the field. All the hard work and pains of the workers and researchers did not pay off. They didn’t give us a chance to explain our side.

I am still hoping that this scientific endeavor will continue in the near future.

I do hope that the modern Pope Urban VIII will realize the importance of this project.

PS: Please take time reading these two articles, one written by Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr. and the other one, an editorial piece of a local newspaper.

All photos taken by Mr. Rene Estremera

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