DA's pro-GMO stance will lead country into food crisis, Greenpeace warns

Press release - October 16, 2012
Unabated approvals of genetically-modified crops threaten—not enhance—food security, Greenpeace warned at today’s observance of World Food Day. The environment group is calling on the Department of Agriculture to safeguard the country’s food security by banning genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) which promote agricultural monopoly by giant agro-chemical corporations—aside from causing harm to human health and the environment.

"The DA’s relentless approvals of GMO crops will lead the country into a food crisis,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture and Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace. “By seeking to control the food system from the crop’s gene—not seed—up to the table, GMO corporations are forcing Filipino farmers into a corner by promoting dependence on industrial chemical inputs such as harmful pesticides and herbicides, which tie farmers into a never-ending circle of debt and less choices for what seeds or crops to plant. Far from being a solution, GMOs extend all the worst practices of industrial agriculture. And, perversely, its widespread adoption would lead to more hungry people—not fewer.”

Among all of Southeast Asia, the Philippines has approved the most number of GMOs. Since December 2004, at a rate of almost one GMO every 1.5 months, the country has approved a total of 67 GMO crops, for food, feed and processing, propagation, and field trial. No GMO application in the Philippines has ever been disapproved despite documented cases on questions of their safety and rejection by other countries. In fact, some GMO crop varieties, such as GMO corn, that are actually banned in other countries due to health concerns, are allowed in the Philippines. Significantly, the government's system of regulation and assessment of the safety of GMOs remains closed to the public.

Pro-GMO lobby groups and policy makers have cited hunger alleviation to justify GMO approvals. However, a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization report stated that there are 5.4% more hungry people in the Philippines now, compared to the previous decade—even as hunger substantially decreased in the same period in all other countries in Southeast Asia—majority of which do not plant GMO crops. For example, the number of chronically hungry people decreased most dramatically Thailand (79.8%), a country which does not plant GMOs. [1]

Technological solutions presented as silver bullets to solve hunger, such as GMOs, shift the focus away from the real solutions and hide the true causes of hunger which derive from social and environmental problems. Greenpeace says that the government must acknowledge that a large part of the problem is giant agro-chemical corporations which are hell bent on marketing GMOs and the industrial farming system it maintains, with little regard to health, environmental, and economic consequences.

Fundamental changes in farming practices are needed in order to address soaring food prices, hunger, social inequities and environmental harm. But while the DA has taken the first step toward this solution through the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, this effort continues to be undermined by continued approvals of GMOs, as well as support of commercial research to propagate these harmful modified crops.

“GMOs do not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems hunger and poverty, and food safety and security.

The government’s rabid support of GMOs is completely irresponsible because it supports industrial farming practices and chemical dependence that would endanger, rather than improve, the country’s agricultural sector. By approving GMOs, the government is actually compounding the food problem, not solving it,” said Ocampo.

“The government must reexamine their misplaced focus on industrial farming which has diverted government funds from supporting ecological solutions that ensure food security and sound environment. As a start, the DA must cancel all GMO approvals and instead support ecological alternatives that will guarantee a healthy, viable and sustainable agriculture to feed the country,” he concluded.

Notes:

  1. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/

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