Court of Appeals affirms MASIPAG, Greenpeace petition against Bt eggplant field trials

Manila – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and individual petitioners are pleased that the Court of Appeals stood by its decision to stop the field trials of Bt eggplant. Bt eggplant (or talong) is genetically modified to produce its own toxin to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB).

The court, in its ruling elucidated the possible harm Bt talong may bring. The decision said that “the testing or introduction of Bt talong in the Philippines, by its nature and intent, is a grave and present danger to a balanced ecology because in any book and by any yardstick, it is an ecologically imbalancing event.” The court also mentioned that even if there is no factual evidence that Bt talong may bring harm to health, there were also no factual evidence either that it may not cause harm to anyone. However, when a study of Gilles-Eric Seralini wherein rats were fed with Roundup-tolerant GM corn for two years developed health problems was presented in court, the seven expert witnesses who testified were not able to convincingly rebut the said study. Hence, the court granted the precautionary principle.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals also reaffirmed its decision on the issue saying that the respondents’ motions for reconsideration shows no compelling reason to warrant a reversal or modification of the court’s May 17, 2013 decision. In its May decision, the court granted the Writ of Kalikasan and Continuing Mandamus on the grounds: that there is no scientific consensus on the safety and impacts of Bt talong; that there is no Congressional enactment that governs GMOs like Bt talong; that precautionary principle is applicable in the light of uncertainties and inadequacy/ineffectiveness of the current regulatory system; Bt talong, with its social, economic and environmental impacts, should not be entrusted to scientists only but should involve the all stakeholders.

“This is but a vindication of our campaign against the entry of genetically modified crops in our food system” said Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of MASIPAG. “We laud the Court of Appeals for safeguarding the right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology. This is an initial victory, as the country has about 70 GMO products which the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry approved for food, feed or processing. This includes GM corn, which for the past ten years is being freely planted in our country. Apart from unintended health and environmental effects, GM corn planting also led to the bankruptcy of corn farmers,” said Medina.

Recently, MASIPAG released a new study on the socio-economic impacts of GM corn on the lives and livelihood of corn farmers. The study showed ‘evidence of failure’, wherein farmers incurred huge debt because of the rising cost of GM seeds and its corresponding inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides. Since its introduction in 2003, GM corn seed prices doubled, and prices of fertilizers skyrocketed. Medina said that “in all, external inputs (seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) eat about 40-48% of the total expenses that a farmer spends per season, and all of these goes to the corn traders/financiers and agrochemical companies”.

Apart from decreased incomes, farmers also reported changes in soil fertility, increased soil erosion, contamination of corn varieties and negative effects on human and animal health.

“After ten years, we have yet to see a comprehensive post-commercial monitoring of GM corn. With hundreds of thousands of hectares planted to herbicide-resistant GM corn, estimates suggest that more than 5 Million liters of glyphosate are being dumped into our fields in 2011 alone. Herbicide application not only increases weed resistance, but the run-off also affects natural soil cover and increases exposure of farmers and consumers to the toxic substance. It is also reported that farmers and their families who ate GM corn suffer some form of toxicity. However, because of the lack of strict policies and regulations governing GMOs, these problems are put into the wayside,” added Medina.

Medina stressed that with recent ruling on Bt eggplant and the evidences on the experience of GM corn farmers, it is but fitting that the commercialization of GM corn, the continued field trials of Golden Rice and the importation of other GMOs be stopped. ###