No more Bt talong and other GMO crops?
University of the Philippines Los Baños bemoaned the Supreme Court’s decision to permanently stop the field-testing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant or Bt talong.
UPLB criticized as well the SC’s decision to declare null and void a Department of Agriculture (DA) administrative order No. 8 that temporarily stops any application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization and importation of GMOs.
UPLB Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, in a position paper published online, called the SC decision a “heavy blow to food security and scientific research” and could “serve to disrupt the long-term competitiveness of Philippine agriculture.”
“The decision to permanently stop field testing of the Bt eggplant and declaring AO-08 null and void bring many important and long-term consequences to the country and us Filipinos,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez argued that the food and feed industries are dependent on imported crops such as corn and soybean from the United States and Argentina and which are mostly genetically modified.
Because of the ruling, the Philippines will have to import crops such as soybean, corn, cotton and livestock from other countries. He also warned prices of importation will skyrocket and the possible disruption in the food chain might cause food security issues.
“Thus, low-wage, and even middle-income consumers will have to bear the burden of paying high prices for food. These include crops exposed to excessive pesticide spraying,” he said.
“Furthermore, consumers are denied food with additional nutritional benefits and better postharvest quality at no extra cost, such as Golden Rice with Vitamin A, and long shelf-life papaya,” he added.
With the SC ruling, farmers would also be deprived of planting high-yielding crops that may help raise their income. They would also be deprived access to sustainable technologies that may help them fight the effects of climate change, such as planting crops that can withstand flood, drought and saltwater.
It would also be difficult for the farmers, who make up 36.6 percent of the country’s total workforce, if they cannot plant seeds or are prevented from planting even if GMO crops are available.
“Developments such as this frustrate scientific research initiatives and dampen the enthusiasm of researchers to contribute to science-based solutions to food security and safety,” Sanchez lamented.
“But the grimmer scenario is that of a nation that cannot feed its own people in the future. Officially, there are now 104 million Filipinos and could spike up to 142 million by 2045. With more mouths to feed and the effects of climate change upon us, the challenge to produce more food has become even more difficult with this decision that we believe lacked a solid scientific basis,” he said.
The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, MASIPAG and other stakeholders against the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the DA’s Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) and Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA), UPLB Foundation Inc., UP Mindanao Foundation Inc. and ISAAA.
The group invoked the Writ of Kalikasan, a legal remedy under Philippine law which protects the rights of Filipinos to a balanced and healthful ecology, as they accuse government scientists of conducting field trials that violate the people’s constitutional rights to a healthy environment due to the possible detrimental effects and concerns of using Bt crops. (Ched Romulo)