Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 50      Jan. 21 - 26, 2007      Quezon City, Philippines








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Local Supermarkets Still Selling Rice Disapproved for Consumption
Environmentalist group hits DA for ‘negligence’

Supermarkets in Metro Manila, the Philippines’ most populous region, are still selling Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice even if it was confirmed last November to be contaminated with a genetically-engineered (GE) strain disapproved for human consumption.


Supermarkets in Metro Manila, the Philippines’ most populous region, are still selling Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice even if it was confirmed last November to be contaminated with a genetically-engineered (GE) strain disapproved for human consumption.

Greenpeace expressed “shock and disgust” over the failure of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to recall the GE-tainted rice from supermarkets to protect consumers, despite the government agency’s pronouncements last December that it is “vigilantly inspecting” U.S. rice meant for export to the Philippines to block the entry of the disapproved genetically-modified rice.

“This is utter negligence,” said Greenpeace GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo. “Once again, the Department of Agriculture has proven itself inutile in preventing and containing the threat of illegal GE products entering the country. The DA is fully aware of the U.S. rice contamination scandal that affected global rice markets last year. They are also fully aware that Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice has tested positive for GMO contamination. But aside from merely issuing a statement that they will be checking future rice imports for GE contamination, they have not taken any steps to prevent the continued sale of this illicit product in the market.”

Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice, distributed by Purefeeds Corp. which is based in Sta. Cruz, Manila, was tested last year by an independent laboratory to be positive for Bayer LL601, a genetically-altered rice that can survive the powerful herbicide glufosinate. It was field-tested under permits granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 1998 to 2001 but Bayer stopped its development in 2001 for unclear reasons.

On July 31, 2006, Bayer informed the USDA of LL601 contamination in the food chain, but neither Bayer nor the USDA was able to tell how much rice was contaminated, which rice products were involved, or where the contaminated rice was found.

Bayer LL601 is illegal and therefore not approved for commercial distribution or human consumption in any place in the world except in the U.S. The company applied for marketing in the U.S. approval only after it illegally contaminated the food chain. Greenpeace presumes that this was done to limit Bayer’s legal liability for the episode.

The widespread Bayer LL601 contamination scandal was the most significant demonstration of GE rejection on a global scale last year. The news elicited strong reactions from rice farmers and processors, as well as governments. Bayer faced a class-action lawsuit filed by hundreds of U.S. farmers and Japan, the European Union (EU), and Russia responded with import restrictions. The incident also prompted rice producers and exporters in the U.S., EU, and Asia to commit to GMO-free production and trade.

In the Philippines, the National Food Authority (NFA) prohibited future GMO rice imports, and assigned a team in the US to test possible contamination in shipments to the Philippines.

"The DA should also not neglect to address the contamination already in our shores,” Ocampo said. “For starters, the distributor of this contaminated rice in the country should be accountable. The concerned agencies should investigate and trace how this rice, disapproved for human consumption, ended up in our supermarkets.”

Greenpeace held a press conference last November to warn the public about the presence of the GMO-contaminated rice product, as well as to demand the government for its immediate recall. The contaminated rice was at that time sold in branches of Robinson's, Shopwise, and SM Supermarkets. The DA and retailers were informed of the contamination.

However, the said GMO-contaminated rice continues to be sold openly in branches of SM Supermarket (Megamall and SM City North EDSA), and Robinson’s Galleria.

“There is irrefutable evidence that governments, farmers and consumers throughout the world recognize that GMOs are unreliable, not viable or downright dangerous,” Ocampo said. “The global GE rice scandal involving Bayer’s LLR601 impressed on farmers, exporters, retailers, consumers, and governments, the uncontrollable nature of GMO crops. Clearly, this technology is unsafe as it can neither be controlled nor regulated. The government must therefore take concrete steps to protect consumers – and not just render lip service and empty statements. To continue to neglect the matter is unacceptable.”

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and giving all people access to safe and nutritious food. It describes genetic engineering as “an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.” Bulatlat



© 2007 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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