Agriculture experts endorse sustainable agriculture over GMOs

Greenpeace calls for GE-free zones

Feature story - July 14, 2006
'Go for sustainable agriculture.' This is the unanimous decision among the 12 representatives of Provincial Agriculture Offices in the Philippines, and other NGOs and POs that participated in the National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and GMO (genetically-modified organism) Free Zones.

Greenpeace urges local governments in other parts of the country to make their provinces GE free.

Representatives from 12 Provincial Agriculture Offices in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, NGOs, and people's organisations unanimously endorsed sustainable agriculture-not genetic engineering-as the only way toward real food security in the Philippines. This consensus was reached yesterday by participants to the National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and GMO (genetically-modified organism) Free Zones organized by Greenpeace and held 13 and 14 July 2006 at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.

Conference participants also declared that the government should re-examine the current regulations on GMO crops which favor multinational biotech companies at the expense of local sustainable and organic farming initiatives.

"The Philippines has a wealth of experience in sustainable and organic agriculture farming, most of which are local community initiatives," said Benedicto Sanchez, one of the conference speakers and Program Coordinator of Broad Initiatives for Negros Development, Inc. "The entry of commercial GMO crops will only serve to undermine their significant efforts toward genuine sustainability."

The government first approved the commercialization of genetically-engineered crops in 2002 with the introduction of Bt corn, amid pressure from US GMO lobby groups and large biotech companies like Monsanto. To this day, the government's agricultural policies reflect an alarming predilection toward biotech commercialization. Just last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proclaimed the first week of July as National Biotechnology Week, following the launch of a major government program to promote biotech, including transgenics, in agriculture. Biotech groups from the US, where agribiotech company Monsanto is based, expect massive government approval of GMO crops in the next few years(1).

Several local provincial efforts however recognize the dangers of GMO crops. The province of Bohol passed a resolution banning the entry of GMOs in 2003, becoming the first GMO Free Island in the Philippines. The provinces of Mindoro Oriental and Marinduque (as part of the "Organic Haven Islands of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan or MIMAROPA) both have a Provincial Environmental Code and Administrative Order also banning the entry of GMOs in their areas. Last year, the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental signed a memorandum of agreement in pursuit of their shared vision to become the 'Organic Island of the Philippines' and are expected to pass a similar ban on GMOs in the island. Similar legislations are pending in several provinces in Mindanao.

The government's pro-active GMO commercialization policy, however, can only spell disaster for Philippine agriculture. GMOs cause massive genetic contamination, threaten the livelihood of farmers and undermine agricultural biodiversity and consumer choice. Experiences with GE crops in other countries, such as GE papaya in Hawaii and GE cotton in India, as well as the local experience with Bt corn, indicates that GE crops are more of a burden rather than a boon(2).

"Greenpeace urges local governments in other parts of the country to make their provinces GE free," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo. "GMO-free agriculture is the only way toward true sustainable agriculture."

"For its part, the national government should prioritize local efforts toward GMO-free sustainable agriculture and work for the interest of local farmers instead of willfully killing sustainable agriculture with its obvious bias toward GMO crops developed, patented, and marketed commercially by multinational bio-tech companies."

For more information:

Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner, +63 917 897 6416

Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +63 2 434 7034 loc 104, +63 916 374 4969

Notes: Among the provinces represented during the conference were: Abra, Isabela, Camarines Norte, Mindoro, Palawan, Marinduque, Misamis Occidental, Agusan Del Norte, Cebu, Bukidnon, Lanao Del Norte, Bohol and Negros Occidental (1) Philippines may become major biotech crop producer http://www.freshplaza.com/2006/06jul/2_ph_biotech.htm First week of July is national biotech week http://www.pia.gov.ph/news.asp?fi=p060706.htm&no=39 DOST launches program to promote biotech http://www.pia.gov.ph/news.asp?fi=p060628.htm&no=42 (2) The Failure of GE Papaya in Hawaii, Greenpeace, 2006 http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/seasia/en/press/reports/copy-of-papaya-the-failure-o.pdf The Economics of Bt Corn: Whose interest does it really serve?, Greenpeace, 2005 http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/seasia/en/press/reports/rpt-ge-bteconomics.pdf

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