Legal remedy vs. GMO invasion sought

Greenpeace files writ of kalikasan asking SC to stop GMO talong field trials

Press release - April 26, 2012
Manila - Greenpeace and fellow petitioners today sought legal remedy to the flawed regulatory system that has allowed the unhampered proliferation of dangerous genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country by filing at the Supreme Court a petition for writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus [1] against GMO field trials.

The writ of Kalikasan, presented to media in a press conference in Manila prior to filing at the SC, hopes to immediately stop the field trials of the GMO Bt eggplant.  The petition shows the need to take precaution given the scientific uncertainties on the safety of GMOs. It puts into question the flawed government regulatory process for approving GMOs, and highlights the need for a genuine and comprehensive process of informing and consulting the public, not to mention ensuring the safety of GMOs first on health and environmental grounds before they are released into the open.

"The government's GMO approval system is hopelessly flawed and biased towards the release and propagation of GMOs in the country.  The government's pro-GMO approach is unfortunately resulting in a massive and uncontrolled unleashing of GMOs into our diets and our environment. This, despite the absence of conclusive scientific proof that these monster crops are safe  to public health and the environment. We believe that the Department of Agriculture's unaccountable GMO approval and regulatory system violates the Filipino's right to "a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature" as guaranteed by our constitution," said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace and one of the signatories to the petition.

Among the petitioners are former Senator Orlando Mercado, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, Rep. Teodoro Casiño, Dr. Charito Medina of the scientists and farmers group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pagpapaunlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), lawyers Harry Roque and Maria Paz Luna, scientists Dr. Ben Malayang III of Silliman University and Dr. Romeo Quijano of University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, Leo Avila of the Davao City Agriculturist's Office, Catherine Untalan of Miss Earth Foundation, and activist-musician Noel Cabangon.

The petition seeks a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) as a first step to stopping the multi-location field trials of the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong, a GMO eggplant genetically altered with a gene from the Bt bacteria allowing it to produce its own pesticide.

Bt talong and other GMO crops are dangerous to human health, and the environment.  Scientific tests on laboratory animals fed GMO food such as Bt eggplant, have shown that GMOs negatively affect their liver, kidneys and blood.  No long-term studies have been conducted to prove these GMOs are safe for human consumption.  Also, GMOs, which are man-made living organisms, and can crossbreed and reproduce, causing gene transfer to natural and wild plant varieties.

Since the DA's Administrative Order No. 08 (AO 8) was passed in 2002, the BPI has been approving GMOs for importation as food, feed and processing, as well as for propagation.  Not one GMO application for commercial release has been disapproved or rejected, despite the absence of conclusive proof that such open releases are safe for the environment and human health. 

Under AO 8, proposals for GMO approvals merely use studies conducted by the GMO proponents themselves, instead of independent risk assessments.  Such studies are done on lab animals only over a 90-day period, which doesn't cover even a quarter of the lifetime of their test subjects, much less employ inter-generational impacts assessments.  Even then, their test subjects, such as rats, have been recorded to develop liver toxicity and kidney failures.  Despite such findings, all GMO proposals have been approved in the Philippines, with only the posting of Public Information Sheets in bulletin boards and ad spaces in few newspapers taking the place of proper public consultation procedures.

"This cannot go on. The massive experiment being foisted upon the Filipino people by the government and big agro-chemical corporations must stop.  We have been campaigning on this issue for more than a decade now, but this time through this writ of kalikasan, we hope the country's judicial system will finally guarantee our constitutional rights.  It is now in the hands of the Supreme Court to see to it that our rights to safe food and a healthy environment are restored and that proper scientific assessments are respected," said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace.

Named respondents in the petition are the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the BPI and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority of the DA, UP Los Baños Foundation Inc., UP Mindanao Foundation Inc., and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications-Southeast Asia Center.

Greenpeace campaigns for GMO-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetically modified food crops are an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.

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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 109,

Notes:

[1] A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy under Philippine law available to individuals, groups, and organizations, on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation, by a private individual or entity, public official or employee, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.

A writ of continuing mandamus is a legal remedy under Philippine law available to injured persons when any agency or officer of the government unlawfully neglects the performance of an act, excludes another from the enjoyment of rights, and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

[2] http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/seralini_study_MON863

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