War on GMO quiet, but visible in Davao City
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Organic agriculture advocates on Tuesday disrupted the speech of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala at a forum here, raising placards and streamers demanding a ban on genetically-modified (GM) rice to protect the gains of organic agriculture in the country.
Protesters quietly raised placards reading “protect our rice” and “no to golden rice” while Alcala spoke at the hall filled with participants at the opening of the National Organic Agriculture Conference here.
They said allowing the entry of GM rice would wipe out the gains of organic agriculture in the country.
Alcala told reporters before the conference opening that banning GMOs in the country is “much harder than it sounds.”
He said the success of the anti-GMO campaign rests on organic food producers themselves and is a matter of marketing.
The protesters said while the government is opening up markets for both organic and nonorganic food, the two could not coexist because nonorganic farming methods are likely to contaminate organic ones.
Alcala, however, said “contamination exists only in the mind.” As a congressman, Alcala authored Republic Act No. 10068 or the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.
Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the government is inconsistent in its policies on organic farming.
While the government promotes organic agriculture, it continues to encourage the entry of genetically modified organisms (GMO), including golden rice.
“It looks like the government’s left and right arms are not talking to each other,” Ocampo said.
He cited the case of Bohol, which had been declared as a GMO-free province but which was told by the Bureau of Plant and Industry to stop opposing the entry of GMO products.
Geonathan Barro, Mindanao coordinator of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad (Masipag), said his group had gathered 2,000 indigenous rice varieties that can be brown organically but which are at risk of being contaminated if the government allowed the commercial production of golden rice.
“We can’t allow our rice varieties to be wiped out in exchange for golden rice,” Barro said.
Golden rice is touted to contain an amount of Vitamin A sufficient for the nutrition needs of children.
But Barro said Vitamin A is available in many Filipino families’ backyards in the form of green, leafy and yellow vegetables.
He said the entry of golden rice would open the door for other GMO products. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao
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