Groups assert Bt talong commercialization still cannot be pursued

New, stricter GMO guidelines now applies

Press release - August 22, 2016
Quezon City, 22 August 2016 - Groups composed of farmers, scientists, agricultural communities and environmental advocates today called on proponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to heed the precautionary principle and adhere to the new government guidelines that seek to ensure that GMO crops are not released to the environment before undergoing assessments on the threats they pose to human health and the environment.

In a public forum held today at the IBON Center, in Quezon City, the groups discussed the implications of the recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) on the petition for Filipino people's rights to health and a balanced ecology. In its July 26 decision, the SC set aside its December 8, 2015 ruling on a motion for reconsideration on Bt talong field trials based on ‘mootness’ – since, by that time, the field trials had been halted by the proponents themselves and new, stricter guidelines embodied in Joint Department Circular (JDC) 1-2016, had replaced Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8 (DA AO8), which the original petition identified as wanting.  The SC also stated in their July 26 decision that “the completion and termination of the field tests do not mean that (GMO proponents) may inevitably proceed to commercially propagate Bt talong.”

The original petition seeking to protect people’s right to health and a balanced ecology was filed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines), Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), former Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Teodoro Casino, Dr. Romy Quijano, among others.

Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG, said that “even with the JDC 01-2016 in place, the people's right to safe food and a healthy and balanced ecology still needs to be protected. Relevant policies and laws, such as for GMO labeling, the protection of organic farms from GMO contamination, and the promotion of ecological agriculture need to be introduced as well.”

Atty. Zelda Soriano of Greenpeace Southeast Asia on the other hand reiterated that the merits of the December 2015 decision of the SC is not nullified by its July 26 decision to ‘set aside’ the earlier verdict. “It should be clarified that the earlier decision was not ‘reversed’, but ‘SET ASIDE’ on the basis of ‘mootness’ since the field trials were by then already halted and DAO 8 had been superseded by JDC 1-2016,” Soriano said.

JDC 01-2016 which was signed by the heads of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Governance (DILG), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), replaced the DA Administrative Order No[. 8 (DA AO8) which the SC declared void in 2015.

The groups assert that JDC 01-2016 still needs to be strengthened, as it still contains provisions that may still be used against public interest, such as unclear guidelines on using “counterpart” conventional crops in place of  GMO crops in assessing their effects on health and the environment.  Earlier this year, the groups held public rallies asking for rigorous public consultation on proposed guidelines as required by the SC, and lamented that substantive issues were sidelined without consultations that should have been the proper venue to craft policies that will genuinely protect the constitutional rights of the people against GMOs.

Green Action PH network for its part called on consumers to be more vigilant against buying and eating food with GMOs. The group called on the government to heed consumer clamor to apply the precautionary principle and thoroughly evaluate the impact of GMOs instead of continuing the current administration’s policy of active promotion.  “The Supreme Court's decision setting aside its original ruling on the field testing of GMOs is based on technicalities. The government should ensure safe food for all Filipinos,” said Dr. Nina Galang, of the Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF).

“Before promoting more GMOs in the country, the government should show proof that the commercial propagation of Bt Corn and other GMO Corn in Philippine farms, and likewise the use of GMO feed in livestock, poultry and aquaculture have not compromised biodiversity, public health and safety”, said Sansen Maglinte, spokesperson of Green Action PH and Deputy Executive Director of Sibol ng Agham
at Teknolohiya (SIBAT, Inc.).

Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores, Secretary General of the Philippine Peasant Movement (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or KMP) said persistent poverty and hunger among the millions of Filipinos cannot be solved by GMOs, but rather, genuine land reform alongside a safe, sustainable and vibrant agricultural production that is in the control of farmers and local producers. “Promotion of GMOs increases foreign corporate control over Philippine Agriculture” said Flores.

Rather than promoting GMOs, which increase foreign corporate control over Philippine agriculture, the groups challenge the government especially the DA to support, promote and enhance the best practices of sustainable agriculture and farming already adopted by farmers who refuse to use chemical-based farm inputs and GM technologies promoted by corporate agribusiness.

For more information please contact:

Jenny Guste, Green Action PH

Leonora S. Lava, Greenpeace Philippines