GMO Corn invades Filipino food and feed

Greenpeace demands immediate market withdrawal, moratorium on all GMO approvals

Press release - April 23, 2009
Amidst continuing interception and seizures of illegal GMO corn varieties in Negros Occidental, Greenpeace today demanded that the Philippine Government issue an outright ban on all genetically-modified (GMO) food crops. Earlier this month, Germany became the sixth European country to declare the GMO corn MON810 illegal, which, along with other GMO corn strains similarly banned or found to be toxic in other countries, is approved as food and feed in the Philippines.

GM maize: a dangerous experiment

"GMOs have never been proven safe as food or for planting, but the Philippine government and the Department of Agriculture (DA) in particular have never disapproved any GMO application.  In effect, the government is making Filipinos eat food which is banned for safety reasons in more stringent countries.  This only proves that the country's GMO policy is shoddy and inadequate and should be reassessed. The approval for these GMO corn strains must be revoked and a moratorium on further GMO approvals upheld," said Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

MON810, a Bt corn marketed commercially in the Philippines under the brand 'Yeildguard' and produced by chemical company Monsanto, is genetically altered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis to produce its own toxic insecticide against the Asiatic corn borer.  It was first approved in the country for commercial cultivation and for use in food, feed and processing on December 2002, despite strong opposition from farmers and environmental organizations.  The approval for the GMO corn was renewed in 2007 despite increasing evidence of harmful environmental impacts.

Last April 14 German Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection announced that it has come to the conclusion "that there are legitimate grounds to accept that genetically modified corn from the MON810 strain constitutes a danger to the environment."  The ministry based its decision on the safeguard clause from the European Union law (Directive 2001/18) which allows member-states to use the precautionary principle and prohibit GMOs in the light of new evidence.

MON810 is the only GMO crop currently commercially cultivated in the EU, primarily as animal feed.  Aside from Germany, five countries have already banned its planting: France, Greece, Austria, Hungary and, Luxembourg. The German ban came on the same day that Negros Occidental ordered 515,240 kilograms of GMO corn meant for animal feed to be shipped out of the province.  A Provincial Ordinance in 2007 bans the presence of GMOs in the province Negros to protect its biodiversity and organic agriculture thrust.

"GMOs have not delivered any of its promises such as higher yields, but instead have jeopardized the welfare of farmers and has exposed Filipinos and our environment to risks," said Ocampo. "Any government that seriously examines the threats associated with growing GMOs can only reach one conclusion: to ban its cultivation.  The Philippines should follow the example of these governments, as well as local governments such as Negros Occidental which have banned GMOs to protect consumers.  The DA should also make good its commitment to promote sustainable organic agriculture by doing away with GMOs and the agrochemicals needed to grow them."

Greenpeace asserts that GMOs, aside from being risky, are unnecessary, as they neither improve crop yield nor control pests.  Early March this year in Ifugao province even GMO corn varieties were not spared by corn plant hopper pest attacks.  Scientific evidence further shows that Bt crops lead to swapping pests for another and harms beneficial and on-target insects while making pests more resistant to the Bt toxin.

Greenpeace campaigns for GMO-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic-engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity, and poses unacceptable risks to health.

Other contacts: Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner, +63 917 897 6416, Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Media Campaigner, +63 920 950 6877,