Manila— Commenting on the “rushed and hushed” approval for the varietal release of so-called “golden” rice (GR) late afternoon, Thursday, Greenpeace Southeast Asia senior campaigner Wilhelmina Pelegrina said:
“The varietal approval of GR—railroaded and conducted without an ounce of transparency by the Department of Agriculture through Secretary Willliam Dar—is a monumental betrayal of Filipino rice farmers. Secretary Dar knows full well the strong opposition of farmers, environmental groups, and the food movement against GR, and thus kept this move hidden from the public. Giant multinational agritech companies and their lackeys in government are the only ones happy about this travesty of a decision which will deal a huge blow on the country’s already crippled rice farming sector.
“Greenpeace has long exposed and questioned the DA’s rubber stamp approval process for GM crops. We believe that this approval is irregular. Public records show that GR has only ever undergone contained field trials and limited field trials which may be insufficient as a basis to justify GR’s approval as a variety. The process, a midnight decision timed just before the exit of the current administration, was also kept under wraps. Was the approval an act of expediency, as Secretary Dar’s days are numbered? Where is the robust data set that would back up the decision and attest that there were no lapses in procedure?
“We also question the rationality of this decision. Instead of ramping up support for farmers who are coping with skyrocketing costs of fuel, fertilizer, food and other farm inputs, and the snail’s pace release of subsidies, the DA has chosen to prioritize and even greased up the wheels of approval for a GM crop that has no proven benefits to farmers and consumers.
“Greenpeace maintains that GR, far from being a product of philanthropy and goodwill, is a cover meant to enable greater corporate control of important staple food crops. With this approval, Secretary Dar will be remembered as a main actor in the betrayal of Filipino rice farmers. Aside from facilitating a new regime that further entrenches the influence of a few powerful foreign companies over our food system while squeezing out small farmers, Secretary Dar is sentencing Filipino farmers to even more misery, with the potential contamination of crops and negative economic consequences that this approval will bring.
“Greenpeace is demanding that Secretary Dar reverse this abhorrent decision and to leave a legacy that would strengthen Filipino farmers and secure food for Filipinos. Instead of acting like a sponsor for corporate-controlled GM crops, the DA should promote ecological agriculture that works with and for farmers, and which prioritizes strategies to diversify food production to ensure Filipinos’ access to nutritious, healthy, balanced diets that also address problems such as malnutrition and Vitamin A deficiency. Above all, the DA must ensure that farmers are central in a green and just recovery from the pandemic, and are supported by resilient food and farm systems in the face of the climate emergency.”
 Proponents at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) claim that GR is designed to counter Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). However, Greenpeace and local allies maintain that there are no concrete studies on GR’s efficiency to address VAD. GR does not address the underlying causes of VAD, which are mainly poverty and lack of access to a healthy and varied diet. Solutions to fight VAD, such as providing people with nutritious and diverse food from the practice of ecological agriculture, are already available and have been proven to be safer for environment and human consumption.
In 2019, farmer groups together with environmental and other civil society organizations, including Greenpeace Philippines, submitted formal appeals for the DA to revoke their earlier approval giving GR the greenlight for food, feed, and for processing. The groups cited: 1) the incomplete data submitted by the project proponents, and 2) the lack of transparency and adequate public participation throughout the approval process. However, the groups did not receive any substantial reply to the appeals and no further public consultations were conducted.
Greenpeace noted that the concerns of farmers, indigenous peoples, religious groups, youth, mothers, consumers and civil society groups were not considered at any stage of the approval process. The process also failed to take into account the potential socio-economic impacts to farmers and indigenous peoples, as well as to local culture, ethics, and risks to social cohesion. Moreover, the assessment did not cover what the impact of GR will be on further loss of markets for farmers due to crop contamination from genetically modified species.
Greenpeace believes that the approval process for genetically modified organisms in the Philippines should abide by the precautionary principle, and provide standards for safety and security of our citizens and the food we grow and consume. This process must not discount potential threats and should not be biased towards approval at the expense of safety considerations. Greenpeace is calling on the DA to instead support sustainable and ecological food systems that are resilient and that holistically address the challenges related to livelihoods, health, and nutrition.
Digital Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines
[email protected] | +6399 92296451
Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines
[email protected]g | +63 917 530 8507