Peasant and sustainable agriculture advocates protest the government’s draft guidelines which will allow commercialization of biotech crops that were not tested for health safety.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – After the Supreme Court nullified the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8, a new circular which will govern the use of genetically modified (GM) crops is up for signing this month.
In its Dec. 8, 2015 landmark decision , the high court said AO No. 8 failed to meet the minimum requirements for safety set in Executive Order No. 514 which established the National Biosafety Framework. The SC said the government and the companies involved made “no real effort to operationalize the principles of the NBF in the conduct of field testing of Bt talong (genetically modified eggplant.)”
Petitioners to the Bt talong lamented that the draft joint circular is ‘worse’ than AO 8, which it seeks to replace.
Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), said that under the draft policy, health safety data is not a requisite for the commercialization of GMO.
“There is field testing but no feeding test required,” Medina told Bulatlat in an interview. The scientist explained that field-testing only looks at the crop yield while a feeding test will look into food safety.
Like the previous AO 8, Medina pointed out that the draft guidelines on GMO contain no provision for liability and redress.
Toxicologist Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of Pesticide Action Network Philippines, begged to disagree with the SC’s application of ‘precautionary principle’ in its decision on Bt talong.
The high court applied the precautionary principle, which holds that “lack of scientific certainty is no reason for inaction at the risk of potentially serious or irreversible harm to the environment.”
In a press conference, Feb. 9, Quijano said a lot of studies have proven that GMOs are harmful to people’s health and the environment. Quijano added that only scientists with vested interests, those funded by GMO corporations, say otherwise.
Mar dela Rosa, a farmer from Nueva Ecija, feared that GM crops would contaminate his organic farm. “Kami pa na gumagawa ng pro-environment farming practices ang pinahihirapan. Maglagay daw kami ng buffer,” (We who are into ng pro-environment farming practices are the ones being made to suffer. They’re telling us to put up buffer zone), dela Rosa said during the press conference.
Medina further said that the draft circular’s provision on risk assessment is not defined. He said the scope, nature and procedures for the risk assessment are not indicated. No contamination and ecological studies are stated, Medina said.
Medina added that the draft does not require members of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) to disclose any conflict of interest. The STRP is an advisory body, composed of at least three scientists who will evaluate the potential risks of GMO to human health and the environment. Medina expressed fear it is likely that pro-GMO scientists will sit in the panel.
The worst provision in the new draft policy, Medina said, is Article 9, which provides for deregulation of GM crops. “The government must not poison its citizens by allowing GMO corporations to reign in the country,” Medina said.