Green groups to DA Secretary Alcala: Don’t be blinded by GMOs. Don’t approve ‘Golden’ Rice!

Press release - March 24, 2014
Quezon City– Greenpeace, together with members of the Kasarian-Kalayaan Inc.(Sarilaya), Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) rallied in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA), urging Secretary Proceso Alcala not to approve the genetically modified ‘Golden’ Rice (GR) for commercialization. Carrying baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in beta carotene, the groups [1] argued that viable, working solutions to eradicate Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) already exist, proving that genetically modified Golden Rice is unnecessary given its inherent risks to human health and the environment.

The green groups say Golden Rice is an illusion, marketed to developing countries like the Philippines as a quick-fix solution to eradicate blindness among children and solve world hunger. Despite the hype and decades of research and development, GMO proponents still do not have scientific proof that Golden Rice will indeed solve VAD.

“Secretary Alcala needs to see the truth that Golden Rice is the wrong approach and a risky distraction to the real solutions to combat VAD and malnutrition,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “Why resort to genetic engineering when we have local crops like sweet potato that contains 5 times more beta carotene than Golden Rice?  In fact, we have plenty of fruits and vegetables [2] that are affordable, easily available and undoubtedly rich sources of beta carotene and other nutrients. It just doesn’t make sense for the Philippines to grow Golden Rice, or any GMO for that matter.”

Greenpeace believes that a balanced Filipino diet should be sourced from a variety of food groups. Citing the 2008 National Nutrition Survey in the Philippines [3] that revealed how VAD incidence in the country has significantly decreased, thanks to successful government program interventions [4] based on Vitamin A supplementation, food fortification and the promotion of diverse diets, Ocampo called on the DA to look into long-term solutions to encourage people to diversify their diets with food grown in a system of ecological farming, instead of advocating false solutions like Golden Rice.

“We want to remind Secretary Alcala that Golden Rice will ultimately kill all initiatives leading to integrated and diversified organic farming systems, which are the sources of natural Vitamin A and other nutrients,” said Rene Cerilla, PAKISAMA President. “By promoting GMOs, the DA undermines all efforts to implement the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, which Secretary Alcala championed while he was in Congress,” Cerilla stressed.

“The groups present here want Secretary Alcala to stop approving GMOs for field trials [5] and commercialization and to cease misleading the public into believing there is a need to accept Golden Rice,” added Ocampo. “The DA should not allow itself to become conduits for GMOs. Should the DA Secretary fail to protect the Filipinos from further GMO invasion, President Aquino should see to it that our agricultural practices and financial resources support ecological practices as envisioned by the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 instead of an industry-driven system of GMOs and pesticides.”

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Notes to editor:

[1] Groups who also oppose Golden Rice also include the Consumers Rights for Safe Food (CRSF), Green Convergence, Go Organic Davao, Go Organic Mindanao, Interface Development Interventions, Kasarian-Kalayaan Inc. (Sarilaya) and PAKISAMA

[2] http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/natural-food-sources-of-beta-carotene.php

[3] From 2003 to 2008 these programs considerably lowered VAD incidence from severe (40.1%) to moderate (15.2%) in the vulnerable age group of children aged between six months to five years old, and from severe (20.1%) to mild (6.4%) for lactating women. 

[4] http://fnri.dost.gov.ph/images/stories/7thNNS/biochemical/biochemical_vad.pdf decreased

[5] Despite wide opposition to Golden Rice among stakeholders, the International Rice Research Institute and PhilRice have conducted Golden Rice field trials and are now waiting for commercial approval by the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry(DA-BPI).

For more information, please contact:

Daniel Ocampo, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace Philippines, , +63917-8110469

Virginia Llorin, Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Philippines, , +63917-8228793

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