LGUs urged to oppose GM crops propagation after SC grants writ of kalikasan | Inquirer News

LGUs urged to oppose GM crops propagation after SC grants writ of kalikasan

/ 01:39 PM April 29, 2023

DAVAO CITY — The farmers and scientists group Masipag urged local government units (LGUs) across the country to join the campaign against the commercial release of genetically modified crops Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant after the Supreme Court (SC) ruling granting those who petitioned against the crops the Writ of Kalikasan.

Masipag had earlier led the petition filed at the High Court, seeking to stop the commercial propagation of genetically modified rice and eggplants over environmental and health concerns.

Leo XL Fuentes, Masipag-Mindanao regional coordinator, said LGUs must promote and uphold the people’s right to a balanced and healthful ecology.


He called on local governments, especially those in Mindanao, to support the “growing clamor of local farmers, scientists and consumers” against the commercial release of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant.


“We reiterate that genetically modified (GM) crops like Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant (could bring about) irreversible damage to the environment, biodiversity of rice and eggplant and human health,” Fuentes said in a statement.

The High Tribunal’s Public Information Office said the Supreme Court required the respondents – the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Secretary of the Department of Health, the Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) – to file a verified return within 10 days from service of the writ.

In 2021, DA approved the propagation of beta carotene-enriched Malusog Rice, also known as Golden Rice, in 17 pioneer production areas across the country, including in the Mindanao provinces of Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Maguindanao, and North Cotabato.

Golden Rice, patented by transnational agrochemical corporation Syngenta, is a type of rice inserted with genes from maize and bacterium found in soil.

Its proponents argued that the technology would be safe to human health and the environment. It would also address Vitamin A-deficiency among children, mothers, and pregnant women, especially in areas with severe malnutrition.

But Masipag said there were data showing that the beta-carotene content of Golden Rice is measly and inconsistent; and that


a wide array of safe and low-cost vegetables, fruits, and other crops would be a more dependable source of nutrition for the communities. Vitamin A deficiency and other malnutrition issues confronting many households could also be traced to the lack of access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food due to poverty, Fuentes said.

The government had approved the commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant last year.

Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis is a soil bacterium injected into the genes of eggplants to produce its own toxin to kill fruit and shoot borers, a common pest that consumes and damages eggplants.

Fuentes recalled that in 2010, organic farmers and other residents in Davao City opposed the field testing for Bt Eggplant in the city, as “it exposes local varieties to contamination,” and runs counter to the local organic agriculture ordinance pushing for organic farming systems and practices.

In 2012, a field trial of the controversial Bt eggplant was conducted at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato province.

With its regulatory approval last year, the Philippines became the second country in the world, after Bangladesh, to allow the commercial propagation of borer-resistant Bt eggplant.

“The biosafety approval for commercial propagation allows us to scale up our operations and ensure the availability of the Bt eggplant seeds in the coming years,” said a statement from Dr. Lourdes Taylo, the current lead of the Bt Eggplant Project in the Philippines.

Fuentes called on the government to promote safe, healthy, and sustainable food production by supporting genuine pro-farmer agriculture and a pro-people food system.

He said GM crops would not represent “genuine development” for the people.

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TAGS: Agriculture, bt eggplant, GMO, Masipag, Mindanao

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