Philippine white corn contaminated with GMOs; Greenpeace demands investigation

Press release - November 19, 2013
Quezon City, Philippines - Popular staple white corn (bugas-mais) has been contaminated with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). In a press conference today in Quezon City, Greenpeace Southeast Asia released the findings of an independent testing laboratory that shows how GMOs have cross-pollinated with traditional and natural staple crops. The group urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to investigate the contamination and put a stop to further damage to white corn crops.

The test results, published in the report White Corn in the Philippines: Contaminated with Genetically Modified Varieties, confirms the incidence of genetic contamination of the country’s traditional white corn varieties. All samples tested positive for contamination, with some samples showing high levels (up to 40 % contamination) in the genetic material of some traditional white corn varieties. Unlike defective products, genetic contamination in crops is impossible to recall and extremely difficult to reverse.

“The findings of this report are alarming,” said Esperanza Santos of the women’s group Saliraya. “The GM contamination of white corn exposes Filipinos to the inherent risks of GMO crops. GMO crops are not safe to eat. As agriculture advocates, Saliraya has long promoted white corn which does not have genetically-engineered varieties. But now it seems we are eating GMOs without our full knowledge and consent.”

Greenpeace conducted tests in Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat, looking at corn grits (bugas-mais or clusters of ground corn) sold in the public markets, as well as corn seeds taken from the cob in the corn farms between October and December 2012. The full extent of GM contamination is still unknown, as the testing in this report only represents a “snapshot” of the GM content of corn for sale in Mindanao. It is also not known how this contamination occurred.

White corn is the staple of 20% of the Philippine population. It is planted extensively in Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Region, Northern Mindanao, SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City), Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Central Visayas. Farmers in these regions prefer to grow white corn due to its higher selling price as compared to yellow corn.

The contamination of white corn in the Philippines will have a long-term effect on the right of consumers to eat and plant corn that is free from GMOs. Furthermore, the inherent risks associated with GM crops are not consistent with the government’s programmes to promote white corn as a healthier staple since there is no clear scientific consensus about the long-term safety of GM foods.

It is evident that GM crops cannot be controlled. Given the importance and popularity of white corn, Greenpeace is concerned that there could be GMO contamination elsewhere, without farmers and consumers being aware of it. Greenpeace is demanding that the government undertake further testing to evaluate the extent of the GM contamination and take actions to contain the GM contamination.

“Once GM crops are released into the environment, there is no stopping them from contaminating their non-GM counterparts. Corn, in particular, is known to outcross freely over long distances,” said Dr. Janet Cotter of the Science Unit of Greenpeace International and co-author of the report. “Contamination of GMOs can and will occur even from field trials[1].”

“The only way to stop GMO contamination and safeguard people’s health and the environment is to stop planting GMOs,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It is likely that the same thing will happen with GM golden rice. The government must protect our staple food crops. They should investigate the extent of this contamination, and impose a moratorium on the release of GMO corn and other GMO crops while this contamination is being investigated.”

Greenpeace also called on farmers and consumers to demand liability and redress from corporations for undermining their right to produce) and consume healthy, GMO-free food.

Download the report here: http://www.greenpeace.org.ph/white-corn-report

For more details, please contact:

Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture and Genetic Engineering (SAGE) Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia , Mobile No. 0917-8110469; Email:

Vigie Benosa-Llorin, Media Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Mobile No. 0917-8228793; Email:

[1] http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/agriculture/2012/GEFactSheet-03-2012.pdf

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