Put GMO regulators under the microscope: Greenpeace

Environment group demands transparency and accountability

Press release - May 18, 2012
Quezon City — Greenpeace today called for a rigorous public scrutiny of GMO regulators as it stepped up the demand for accountability and transparency of the country’s GMO (genetically-modified organisms) regulatory process.

“Now that the country’s flawed GMO approval system is in the spotlight, GMO regulators must be put under the microscope.  Greenpeace has reason to believe that certain scientists and government bureaucrats are in bed with applicant corporations.  Thus they clearly lack scientific objectivity and are not fit to make independent judgments on important public policy matters,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.  “This is the root of the obscene GMO approval process which has been designed to legitimize GMOs regardless of scientific safety concerns, rather than protect public health.”

Greenpeace believes that the decision of the Supreme Court to grant a Writ of Kalikasan against GMO Bt eggplant field trials makes it possible for common people to protect their rights to safe food and a healthy environment through the court's intervention. The Writ of Kalikasan is not just an ordinary procedure but is a recognition of the dangers posed by GMOs, as it shifts the burden to proponents to overcome the scientific uncertainties and prove the safety of Bt talong.

More importantly, the decision has also highlighted the country’s flawed regulatory system which is biased toward GMO approvals rather than public interest.  The scientific uncertainty surrounding GMOs and their impacts on health and the environment is adequate reason for stopping GMO field trials and commercial releases.

“Without the Writ of Kalikasan, the complainant has the burden to pay filing fees and prove his/her complaint. Can you imagine farmers for example being required to pay a PHP 4,000.00 filing fee and to present scientific proof to support their complaint against Bt eggplant?  With the Writ, the filing fee is waived and the burden is properly on proponents as they have the interest, resources, and according to law, obligation to prove the safety of their profit-motivated experiments,” said Zelda Soriano, legal counsel for the petitioners.

The Philippines has never rejected a single GMO application, and since 2002, has approved a total of 67 GMOs for importation, consumption and/or propagation.  Several other GM crops are in the pipeline.  If approved, they will further endanger sustainable farming and safe food in the country.

The country’s GMO regulatory system is far from stringent and does not allow for comprehensive public participation and  independent risk assessments.   Companies which import GMO crops for food, animal feed and processing are merely required to publish an advertisement (Public Information Sheet) in two broadsheets before they are approved. Applications for GMO field testing require only the posting of the PIS in three conspicuous sites.  No actual public consultations are required.

In 2007 Greenpeace released a report entitled Ties that bind: regulatory capture in the country's GMO approval process.  The report details how almost all key personalities involved in regulating the entry of GMOs in the Philippines are members of pro-GMO lobby groups funded directly or indirectly by multinational GMO corporations, or have been involved in research projects and GMO-promotion activities sponsored by GMO lobby groups or directly by GMO manufacturers.

“Ethical concerns must be raised.  Scientists and officials in regulatory agencies, in decision-making committees, and governing bodies must not be part of the revolving doors between science, academe, business and government.  The convergence of corporate and narrow personal interests in the regulatory process and how it has infiltrated even the academe, is very telling and shows how vulnerable our experts are to corporate largesse perhaps in support of their research pursuits,” Ocampo said.

“The question now is accountability.  GMO proponents have admitted that they have released an irreversible experiment into the environment, and into our food.  Once the consequences are apparent, who will be liable when something goes wrong?  In the end it is the public who will suffer and shoulder the costs unless biased GMO regulators are exposed and investigated, and the crooked GMO approval system is scrapped.”

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For more information:

Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, +63 9178110469,

AC Dimatatac, Media Assistant, +63 9178686451,

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