Greenpeace to Alcala: Quit rhetoric, instead order the halt of all GMO field trials & launch investigation into field trials process

Press release - August 12, 2011
Greenpeace issued a challenge for Secretary Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture to “put his words into action” by initiating actual measures that would make sure that GMO (genetically modified organism) crops unproven to be safe are not released into the environment nor approved for commercialization, and investigate those who continue pushing for GMOs through risky open field trials.

Alcala had reiterated that he would never give his approval for the genetically engineered Bt talong, during the Kapihan sa SM media forum in Davao City earlier this week [1], unless there is a “100 percent guarantee” of its safety, since it is being pushed for direct consumption by humans.  “Greenpeace is thus questioning why the field trials are still pushing through despite sorely lacking safety processes, the apparent pointlessness of the exercise, and the opposition of so many sectors to these field trials,” Ocampo added.

The Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) talong, or eggplant, is genetically engineered to have a built-in pesticide against the fruit-and-shoot borer insect (locally known as “uod”).  The technology came from India, which has imposed a moratorium on the GMO on the grounds of a very poor scientific dossier that had failed to take safety issues into proper account. [2]

“GMO proponents admit that these open field trials are not meant to determine their safety for human consumption, but merely to determine if the GMO crops will grow in conditions in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  The trials will not be able to assess risks from GMOs, and yet are the very venues wherein these unproven organisms are being released into the environment,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.  “So why go through with them in the first place? If Secretary Alcala is really resolute in preventing the spread of unproven GMOs during his term, he should order the immediate halt of these field trials, see for himself how they put other crops at risk, and investigate how the proponents have been skirting around the requirement of doing conclusive risk assessment in confined laboratory conditions and the opposition of farmers, scientists, community groups and even LGUs (local government units) that have already passed ordinances against these field trials.”

In a public hearing held last week by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture and Food, GMO proponents had failed to produce independent risk assessments that are required prior to letting GMO crops out in open fields.  Diverse groups present at the hearing -- such as farmers-scientists group MASIPAG, community rights watchdog SEARICE, consumer advocacy group Consumer Rights for Safe Food, and other non-government organizations (NGOs) – all indicated that poor regulations in the Philippines are letting rejected GMO technologies from other countries into our shores and putting our agriculture industry and food security at great risk.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (city council) of Davao this week had also reaffirmed its position on a resolution it released last year banning the field trials, by rejecting another appeal by Professor Gerardo A. Santos of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Mindanao to reconsider the ban. [3]

Santos said that the public must not be deprived of a free choice between crops that are organically grown and those that are genetically modified.  However, opposing groups have pointed out that it is the field trials, precisely, that are taking away the public’s choice, since organically grown crops are highly at risk of getting contaminated, especially with the presence of Bt talong in open field trial sites and eggplant being among the plants that very easily cross-pollinate.

However, In an agribusiness conference at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, in Bago Oshiro, Davao City on Monday, Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr. said they will start the field test soon after a memorandum of understanding is signed between UP-Mindanao and the Institute for Plant Breeding (IPB).

“These GMO pushers are getting more and more brazen.  Their experiments are putting our future at risk, while not really giving even just a glimmer of a solution to the country’s problems.  These GMO crops have not been proven to be more effective in providing more yield compared to sustainable agriculture practices or even to current practices.  They have not been proven to be safe enough either.  A lot of sectors oppose these open field tests, and yet they are able to proceed.  They put us at risk without any clear benefits.  Even LGUs, NGOs and farmers apparently cannot stop their march.  If Secretary Alcala does not move soon, the future of sustainable agriculture will already be lost before his term is even over,” Ocampo concluded.
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Contact Details:

  • Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, +63917 8110469, (632) 332 1807 loc 112,
  • JP Agcaoili, Media Campaigner, +63917 6312750, (632) 332 1807 loc 121,


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Notes:

  1. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/agriculture-chief-cautious-about-bt-eggplant
  2. See the study: Gilles-Eric Seralini, Effects on health and environment of transgenic (or GM) Bt eggplant, University of Caen, France, and President of the Scietific Council of the Committee of the Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN)
  3. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/2011/08/11/council-junks-hybrid-eggplant-proposal-172268

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