Over the past few weeks, there has been a series of articles claiming that Greenpeace is anti-science, that we oppose development and - even more outlandishly - that we are puppets whose strings are being pulled by European paymasters.
While provoking a few giggles from our staff who would love the luxury of being paid in Euros - as one of the sillier attacks would have it – mostly this smear campaign is just yawn-worthy. It echoes the same old recycled propaganda that is wheeled out time and again by giant companies and reactionary governments to limit the space of civil society to defend the rights of ordinary people.
So what is it exactly that has got all the spin-doctors in a tail spin? This flurry of disinformation was prompted by the recent ruling by the Court of Appeals to stop the field trials of Bt eggplant. The action filed by Greenpeace, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pagpapaunlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) and fifteen other individuals including former Sen. Orlando Mercado, and Silliman University President Ben Malayang, aimed to stop the experimental trials by the University of the Philippines Los Baños Foundation, University of the Philippines Mindanao Foundation and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), all of whom signed a Memorandum of Undertaking in 2010 to conduct these trials at seven (7) different sites across the Philippines.
In a classic case of the tail attempting to wag the dog, these attacks aim to distract citizens from the real issue: that if we are not vigilant our country will be used as an open-air laboratory for untested, unsafe Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). And rather like the story of the genie in the bottle, once those organisms enter our eco-system, they will be impossible to get back into the bottle.
Curiously, the columnists who use space in the media to attack us tend to gloss over the fact that more than 80% of GMOs are only grown in just four countries: the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Elsewhere – other countries like India and members of the European Union are exercising caution and have either established moratoriums or bans on GMOs. The reasons why our own Food and Drug Administration (FDA) insists that GMOs are safe for Filipino consumption remain opaque.
Globally there is still no consensus among scientists on the long-term safety of GMOS, either on the environment or human health. In fact, scientific studies are increasingly showing evidence that certain genetically modified crops have led to an increase in pesticide use and also the emergence of weeds, particularly for herbicide tolerant crops that were genetically modified to tolerate massive doses of specific herbicides. For Bt crops or “pesticide producing” GMOs, the emergence of resistant pests have already been found in the US and farmers now find themselves resorting to more agrochemical use to deal with these new problems in the farm. These trends show that the canard being peddled by GMO proponents and their cabal of PR practitioners that the use of GMO crops will lead to decreasing use of pesticides is a deceptive claim at best.
The main motivation behind most well-funded campaigns by GMO pushers rests in maintaining the corporate bottom-line and in keeping poor farmers beholden to agro-chemical companies for seeds and chemical inputs -- not food security as they would have us believe. As the companies have patented these genes, GMO seeds will ensure that these companies are in total control of food production. They will prevent farmers from producing their own food and from developing varieties that are suited to a changing climate, local conditions and are pest-resistant. As experienced by cotton farmers in India, Bt cotton has led to farmers not being able to choose non-GMO seeds and incurring debts due to the high production costs of Bt cotton. Unable to face surmounting debts, thousands of farmers have committed suicide leaving behind farmlands that are contaminated with genetically modified Bt cotton.
Greenpeace is an international organisation with presence in more than 40 countries. Our international headquarters is indeed located in Amsterdam, but our national offices around the world operate independently. We issue an open invitation to any columnist who claims Greenpeace Philippines is not a Filipino organisation: please come visit our office in Manila, engage with our staff, volunteers and activists and inform yourself properly before claiming we are a “European organisation”.
A core principle that Greenpeace has adhered to in its four decade history is financial independence. Our money is raised from individual supporters and donors, ordinary people from around the world who support our work though their financial contributions. This means we never accept financial support from governments or corporations. We wonder if the authors of these smear campaigns can say the same of their own financial affairs.
The sad fact is that despite the escalating environmental challenges threatening to undermine our future and collective well-being, the decision-makers in this country are still obsessed with pursuing the same development agenda that is bringing the planet to the brink of an ecological disaster – whose impacts are bound to create greater suffering and poverty for our people.
Worse, the rights of citizens to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment are progressively being eroded by the excessive and corrupting influence that some powerful corporations exert on government policy and regulation in this country. The fact that big agro-chemical giants are able to use the Philippines as testing ground and springboard for their dangerous GMO experiments - with relative ease and with the complete backing of friendly scientists and government regulators - proves how such selfserving partnerships chip away at our basic and fundamental rights.