In Negros, Alert Raised on Entry of ‘GE Rice,’ ‘Franken Food’

The public and local government units should be alerted on the possible entry into the local market of some genetically-engineered rice and similar other “Franken food.”

Vol. VIII, No. 12, April 27-May 3, 2008

The public and local government units should be alerted on the possible entry into the local market of some genetically-engineered rice and similar other “Franken food.”

(Magsasaka at Siyentista para sa Ikauunlad ng Agham Pang-agrikultura (MASIPAG) advocacy officer Ma. Veronica Promentilla, who was in Bacolod last as the resource speaker in the Trainer’s Training on Advocacy against GMO (genetically-modified organisms) hosted by the Negros Organic Agriculture Movement (NOAM) and the Office of Bacolod Councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, said this as she particularly warned the public of the LLRICE62 and the U.S. long rice which have recently managed to reach a prominent supermarket in Manila.

“Just like any other crops that enter illegally our local markets, the banned rice grains could also make their way even to Bacolod and Negros commercial outlets,” Promentilla said.

The said rice grains, LLRICE62 and U.S. long rice, were found to be contaminated with GMO bacteria which is highly dangerous for human health, Promentilla said.

“LLRICE62, a product of Bayer, was discovered by environmentalists groups to have sneaked in the country early this year; the rice variety was reportedly banned in the U.S.,” Promentilla said.

Promentilla also said that the Greenpeace group has succeeded recently in getting a restraining order for the distribution of an undetermined number of sacks of U.S. long rice and LLRICE62 rice in the local market, and demanded that the government have them tested first for possible GMO element or contamination.

Several independent scientific studies on GE rice and other crops, Promentilla stressed, have revealed that a GMO crop is highly hazardous to environment and humans, because it contains two genetically different materials in an organism.

“It can be likened to Frankenstein; thus GMO food are called in Europe as ‘franken food’ because they destroy rather than enhance human life and ecology,” she added.

She also debunked claims by GMO promoters especially the transnational corporations that “they are perfectly safe, increase production yields, reduce pesticides and can solve widespread hunger.”

“The facts are, they do not increase yields, market prices very low, and costs of production are very high,” she said.

Promentilla added that “they do not alleviate poverty nor feed the hungry because they are produced for the transnationals’ interests; crops are easily contaminated without farmer’s knowledge or consent; farmers are not allowed to save, exchange, sell or improve seeds because they are patented; and the genetically-engineered technologies create dependency to transnational companies because they alone have the license or patent on said technologies.”

She said that the vulnerability of our country to risky rice and other food items is only the result of its dependence on imports because local agricultural production and internal food self-sufficiency have never been given enough priority by the government.

“The government’s lack of technical capability has even rendered it handicapped to monitor and detect GMO in imported agricultural crops and other products imported into the local markets,” she said.

Promentilla also urged the local governments and the various non-government institutions and people’s organizations to “sustain critical engagement and resistance to genetically-engineered crops, while strengthening the campaign for sustainable agriculture at the local level.”

Meanwhile, Prof. Renato Banas, NOAM head convener and staunch advocate of land reform especially in so-called Sugarlandia, said that land reform is still the key to any sustainable agriculture projects.

“Advocacy of sustainable agriculture and rural development is a must if we want to achieve widespread rural peace and progress, but in the end, this will still depend on our success in land reform campaign,” Banas said.

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