"Illegal" farmers label Bt corn field

Feature story - May 10, 2006
A one hectare field of genetically-engineered (GE) Bt corn in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, has been occupied and labeled as “illegal” by Filipino farmers who've been mislead by US-based bio-tech corporation Monsanto.

Filipino farmers, supported by Greenpeace, today occupied and label as "illegal" a one-hectare field of genetically-engineered (GE) Bt corn in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, 140 km South of Manila, as they called on US-based bio-tech corporation Monsanto to respect the law and stop contaminating their province with GMOs.

Filipino farmers, supported by Greenpeace, today occupied and label as "illegal" a one-hectare field of genetically-engineered (GE) Bt corn in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, 140 km South of Manila, as they called on US-based bio-tech corporation Monsanto to respect the law and stop contaminating their province with GMOs.

Filipino farmers, misled into believing they have planted hybrid corn, today occupied and labeled as "illegal" a one hectare field of genetically-engineered (GE) Bt corn in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, 140 km South of Manila as they called on US-based bio-tech corporation Monsanto to respect the law and stop contaminating their province with GMOs.

The farmers of Oriental Mindoro, where a ban on genetically-modified organisms (GMO) exists, were acting upon results of investigation by the Municipal Agricultural Office and Greenpeace which showed that Monsanto's suppliers have been actively misleading them into illegally planting Bt corn. Witnesses asserted that Monsanto's local agent had been luring farmers with generous loans to plant what was claimed to be conventional hybrid corn. Laboratory tests later confirmed, however, that the said corn crop was actually Bt corn, a GMO patented and sold by Monsanto.

"Monsanto must be held liable for repeatedly ignoring the ban and misleading local farmers. The government must hold the company accountable for GMO contamination in Mindoro and require it to pay for the clean up of the province's GMO-contaminated corn fields," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

"The government must also stop the onslaught of GMO crops into the country to avoid contamination cases such as this because GMOs have never been proven safe for human consumption and the environment."

This is not the first time Monsanto skirted the law to advance its GMO crops in Asia.  Last year, the US government fined Monsanto US$1.5 million and placed its business practices under close monitoring for bribing Indonesian officials from 1997-2001 to avoid an environmental assessment on its GMO cotton(1). Monsanto's aggressive peddling of GMO crops in Asia ignores regulations, such as the case in Mindoro, despite repeated calls from farmers and government officials for laws to protect them from GMOs.

The province of Oriental Mindoro has banned GMO crops and set its path towards becoming the capital of organic farming in the Philippines. Farmers in the province shunned Bt corn upon learning from experience that Bt corn is more of a burden than a benefit. The Greenpeace report "The Economics of Bt Corn: Whose Interest Does It Really Serve?" details the exorbitant cost of planting Bt corn which comes at a huge premium that most farmers cannot recover from(2).

"Oriental Mindoro farmers have been consistent in their refusal to plant GMO crops like Bt corn because they want to focus on natural, organic farming," said Ely Vargas, Municipal Agriculturist of Oriental Mindoro. "This is an admirable farmer-led initiative with support from the local government, but one which Monsanto, by continuing to flout the ban, effectively abuses."

The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia to approve the planting of GMO crops, based on the premise that this will result to higher income for farmers. Greenpeace, however, has documented a litany of farmer losses in the Philippines due to Bt corn, a far cry from its promise of progress.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environment problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future.

For more information:

Daniel Ocampo, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, +63 917 8976416

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

1) http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/monsanto-pays-fine-for-bribery 2) A copy of the report is available for download at www.greenpeace.org.ph

Support us!

Our vision of a better future is only as strong as the people who support us. Join Greenpeace today and add your voice to the movement that's committed to defending our planet. Your support will make all the difference.

Tags