Hotels & restos join sectors urging Negros dads not to amend GMO ban

Feature story - September 16, 2009
Greenpeace activists dressed as chickens delivered a petition letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Negros Occidental telling them not to push through with any amendment to the ordinance preventing the entry of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into the province and instead work on authoring provisions that outline the implementation of organic farming practices.

Greenpeace activists dressed as chickens circulate a petition, prepared by Greenpeace and the Hotel & Restaurants Association of Negros Occidental (HRANO), urging the Sangguniang Panlalawigan not to amend the ban on GMOs and instead work on implementing rules and regulations towards an Organic Negros Island. The petition was signed by farmers, students, business owners, workers, consumers and other citizens of Negros. HRANO, composed of all the major hotels and restaurants in the province, announced yesterday (16 Sept 09) the partnership with Greenpeace and its stand on the controversial ban.

The petition was made by Greenpeace and the Hotel & Restaurants Association of Negros Occidental (HRANO).  It was signed by farmers, business owners, workers, consumers, students and other citizens of Negros, and was delivered during the Governor's State of the Province address today, to highlight the effect that amending the ban will have on prominent industries and economic cornerstones of Negros.

HRANO made public its stand on the controversial ordinance as it announced its partnership with Greenpeace in efforts to advance sustainable agriculture in the province, and delivered a separate letter to Governor Isidro P Zayco.

The letter HRANO submitted to the Governor states: "We believe that the promoters of GMOs have not provided adequate proof on the safety (health-wise and environmentally) of their products. This is one of the primary reasons that GMOs are not accepted under international and local organic agriculture standards. Any fundamental amendment to the ordinance will defeat the push for organic agriculture. We are calling for the provincial government to stand fast and to continue the implementation of the ordinance for the full realization of a 'Negros Organic Island.'"

Roberto Magalona, president of HRANO, added that "it is part of our responsibility, as operators of food businesses, to make sure that we serve the best quality foods. It is also in our best business interests to make sure that our sources for ingredients are safe for consumption and do not pose a threat to the environment."

The provincial government and its counterpart in Negros Oriental had come together in 2005 to launch a joint effort called "Negros Organic Island," which seeks to transform the whole of Negros into the "Organic Island of Southeast Asia."  The idea is to mainstream sustainable agricultural practices throughout the island to address problems of rural poverty, underdevelopment, food insecurity, health deterioration and environmental degradation. In 2007, Negros Occidental became one of the pioneer local governments with a clear law on GMOs when it passed Provincial Ordinance 007, or the "Safeguard against Genetically Modified Organisms."

In April this year, the local government, upon orders of Gov. Zayco, upheld the ban by rejecting shipments of illegal GMO corn at the capital's port in Bacolod City. GMO lobby groups reacted by questioning the ordinance and pressuring the SP to hold hearings to reconsider the ordinance.  Since then, farmers and other grassroots groups have been holding peaceful rallies and other actions to voice their opposition to GMOs and the planned amendments on the ban.

Greenpeace warns that amending the ordinance may jeopardize the chance for a Negros Organic Island. "Negros Occidental has been steadily building an international reputation as a showcase of sustainable farming practices," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner Daniel M. Ocampo.  "Negros public officials and citizens should question the motivations of parties who want this ordinance repealed: GMOs will reverse the province's efforts to protect safe, organic farming, putting both farmers and consumers at risk."

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