RP's top chefs unite to support GMO-Free rice

Feature story - November 30, 2008
The country's top chefs have signed up today as ambassadors for GMO-free rice.

Top Filipino chefs pose for a photo after signing the “I Love my Rice GMO-Free” Chefs’ Charter at Mara’s Organic Market in Makati City. The Charter is a commitment to serve and prepare only non-genetically modified rice—or GMO-free rice—in support of the Greenpeace “I Love my Rice GMO-Free” campaign. The campaign aims to protect the Philippines’ rice varieties from contamination from GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) which pose serious risks to the environment and human health.

The chefs, who comprise the roster of the country's foremost food experts, signed a commitment to serve and prepare only non-genetically modified rice-or GMO-free rice-in support of the Greenpeace "I Love my Rice GMO-Free" campaign.  The campaign aims to protect the Philippines' rice varieties from contamination from GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) which pose serious risks to the environment and human health.

The signing of the "I Love My Rice GMO Free Chefs' Charter" was held during the first ever GMO-Free Rice Festival at Mara's Organic Market in Makati City. The festival is meant to celebrate the diversity of traditional Philippine rice varieties.  The event featured seminars and cooking demonstrations on organic rice varieties, including purple, black, brown and red rice, by chefs and food experts Miguel Ongpin, Ed Quimzon, Jason Stacy, Heny Sison, Katrina Ponce Enrile, and Nancy Reyes-Lumen.

"With this Chefs' Charter, the country's top food experts are sending a very strong message that they are pro-active in their desire to ensure the safety of the food we eat.  The charter is a firm stand, a statement, that they know there are better technologies and more ecological ways of producing rice in the Philippines--without the need for risky genetic-engineering.  Greenpeace values the chefs' strong support in getting this message across to consumers throughout the country," said Greenpeace Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

The Chefs' Charter, as well as the GMO-Free Rice Festival, is part of the Greenpeace Campaign "I Love My Rice GMO-Free" which aims to prevent the commercialization of genetically-modified rice in the country.  In signing the charter, the chefs have committed not to support the commercialization of GMO rice, and instead push for the production of conventional and organic varieties, in order to protect the future of the country's most important staple food.

Last August, Greenpeace launched the "I love my Rice GMO-Free" restaurant campaign which signed in leading food establishments such as Fish and Co., Italiani's, TGI Friday's, and Flapjacks, as well as heritage restaurants such as Kusina Salud, Casa Rap, and Kinabuhayan Café into the campaign.

Notes: GMOs are plants or animals whose DNA have been manipulated to accommodate genes from entirely different species, such as a rice crop inserted with genes from a bacteria or an animal. They are entirely different from crop varieties developed through conventional cross breeding techniques. Because governments recognize the dangers of GMOs, these crops are highly regulated. Genetic manipulation is an imprecise and risky process. Aside from the fact that the resulting genetically modified organisms would never occur in the natural world, the new organism created is a living experiment--its long term effects on the environment, on soil and on biodiversity, are unknown. GMO food crops also pose risks to health and no long term health studies have ever been conducted. And because these crops are controlled by giant seed companies, they threaten the livelihood of farmers whose crops are in danger of being contaminated by GMO varieties. Greenpeace has been at the forefront of the campaign to prevent the release of GMOs into the environment. Last year, the environment group launched the 'I love my rice GMO-free' campaign. No GMO rice has is approved for human consumption or propagation in the Philippines, but GMO rice from the United States have slipped into the country at least twice, despite measures by the National Food Authority to ensure that US rice imports are GMO-free. At present, an application for the approval of a GMO rice variety is lodged at the Department of Agriculture. If the application is approved, the Philippines may become a dumping ground of GMO rice rejected by other countries.

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