Monthly Archives: August 2015

On SEARCA’s Bt talong petition signing:

More than 2,000 signatures against Bt talong already sent to DA since 2011,Farmers say NO to Bt Talong!

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Los Baños, Laguna – In a latest move to convince the Supreme Court to side for the lifting of the Bt talong field test ban, farmer-scientist group MASIPAG called on the Supreme Court to stand by its decision saying that more farmers and consumers do not want the genetically modified crop.

In recent news, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture – Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC) in collaboration with DA, Regional Agriculture and Fishery Council (RAFC) and Asian Farmers Regional Network of Region 2, ISAAA and UPLB Bt eggplant study leaders went to Ilagan, Isabela to conduct a public dialogue with farmers and local officials. Of the 700 signatures that they have collected, about 106 came from farmers in Isabela. Earlier, the Supreme Court allowed farmers to intervene in the Bt eggplant case.

However, farmer-scientist group MASIPAG said that they have already sent copies of more than 2,000 signatures to the national office of the DA last March 14, 2011 while hundreds of farmers outside trooped to call for the stoppage of the Bt eggplant field trials back then. The original copies of the signed petition papers were given to DA Asst Secretary Romeo Recide, with farmers from MASIPAG, KMP and RESIST TNCs! witnessing the handing over of the said petition papers. The activity coincided with the World Consumer Rights Day, in which protesters called for their right to safe, affordable and nutritious food.

“For years, we have been calling on the Department of Agriculture to be impartial and objective about the issue on Bt talong. We have been talking with them, conducting dialogues and sending petitions but all of these fell into deaf ears. This is why the farmer groups and consumers had finally sought the help of the Supreme Court, as the DA is not doing its mandate to protect the people. Clearly, this move is influenced by huge multi-national companies such as Monsanto to influence the courts. We call on the court to side with the people, protect us from hungry multi-national companies and defend the right of the people to health and a healthy environment. The government must not poison its citizens.” said Carlito Seguiro, National Chairperson of MASIPAG.

Dr Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG also said that clearly this move is to influence the Supreme Court to lift the ban against Bt talong. “Why is SEARCA involved in the promotion of Bt talong? From their acts, they are now becoming lobbyists for genetically modified crops. And clearly, this so-called public dialogue is purely hog wash. It is clear that farmers were not given balanced information about Bt eggplant, its effects and why the court decided to order cease and desist of the field trial. It is not the farmers who will benefit from the said crop, but the multi-national seed companies who will extract profits from the farmers. Take for example the situation in Bangladesh who planted Bt eggplant. They are now crying for help.”

Dr Medina cited a report made by Farida Akhter of UBINIG. According to Ms Akhter, the Bt eggplant proved to be a failure. In Bangladesh, where Bt eggplant was allowed limited commercial propagation by the government, farmers are clamoring about the poor results of the said genetically modified crop. Akhter said that “extensive crop failures were found by journalists in Bangladesh in the newer areas in the second round. Bt brinjal strains were distributed to farmers and grown again in 2015; the crops failed yet again, even more dismally, according to the United News of Bangladesh, which sent a reporter to investigate. Reporter found that the plants have either “died out prematurely or fruited very insignificantly compared to local varieties”. Spot visits to 12 brinjal fields in the districts of Manikganj, Narsingdi and Comilla over the month of February to March 2015 found hardly any living or properly fruiting plants (see “Bt brinjal turns out to be ‘upset case’ for farmers”, New Age 21 March 2015 ).”

“We hope that the Supreme Court will not be persuaded with the lies being peddled by the likes of Monsanto and its public relations front such as the ISAAA. Heed the call of the people, the thousands of people of Leyte, Iloilo and Davao who stood against the field testing of Bt talong. The governments and people of Negros and Bohol who up until now are preventing the entry of GMOs in their areas. And the countless multitude of small and resource-poor farmers who have been guarding and protecting our rich biodiversity” added Mr. Seguiro.###

Sources:
• Turning Bt Brinjal Failure into a Success http://ubinig.org/index.php/home/showAerticle/76/english
• Farmers Back Bt Eggplant, SEARCA says
http://searca.org/index.php/news-and-events/searca-in-the-news/2159-farmers-back-bt-eggplant-searca-sayshttp://searca.org/…/2159-farmers-back-bt-eggplant-searca-sa…

Golden Rice Research Publication Retracted Due To Ethical Grounds

Los Baños, Laguna – Farmer-scientist group laud the retraction of the nutritional study on Golden Rice by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). The article “B-Carotene in Golden Rice is as good as B- Carotene in oil in providing Vitamin A to children” was published in the September 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The Massachusetts Superior Court denied the senior author, Dr Guangwen Tang, appeal to stop the retraction. According to the AJCN, on July 17, 205, the court decided to clear the way for the American Society of Nutrition (ASN), the copyright owner of the journal, to retract. ASN then retracted the said article on July 29, 2015.

The court based its decision on moral and ethical grounds, saying that there was insufficient information given to the Chinese school-age children, and their parents/guardians, who underwent Golden Rice feed testing. Dr Tang, a researcher based in Tufts University, headed a team of scientists to conduct nutritional study on Golden Rice on children in Hunan province in China.

“This is a welcome development to those who oppose the golden rice. The farmers feel vindicated that they uprooted the Golden Rice field trial in August 2013. They are strongly against the field trial of the said crop as it might affect their crops, health and environment. With this retraction no nutritional or safety studies exist that supports the benefits of Golden Rice” said Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of MASIPAG.

Tomorrow, August 8, marks the second year when about 400 farmers and basic sectors from SIKWAL-GMO trooped at the Golden Rice field trials inside the regional office of the Department of Agriculture in Pili, Camarines Sur and uprooted the said GM crop. Also last year, more than 20 organizations and regional groups from all over Asia convened to form the STOP Golden Rice! Alliance. They also protested in front of the Department of Agriculture to stop the impending commercialization of Golden Rice.

Golden Rice, a transgenic rice containing beta carotene is being heralded as the solution to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). At present, it has completed the multi-location field trials in the Philippines and is now in the process of collating the data for regulatory approval. After the regulatory approval, feed testing on the people will commence. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) of the Department of Agriculture are the proponents of the said project. But of course, the force behind this is the owner of Golden Rice, Syngenta, and other biotech corporations. They push to commercialize Golden Rice by 2016 or earlier. In fact, a group of lobbyist, headed by Patrick Moore, had a campaign swing here in the Philippines, Bangladesh and India last March. Apart from the Philippines, Golden Rice is also being field tested in contained areas in Indonesia and Bangladesh.

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Farmers oppose Golden Rice, seeing as it will not benefit consumers and producers, but merely as a profit-making venture for giant agrochemical corporations.

Moral and Ethical grounds

The AJCN, stated several reasons for retracting the article. The authors were unable to provide sufficient evidence that the study has been reviewed by local ethics committee in China. Also they were unable to prove that all parents and children involved in the study were provided with the full consent form for the study.

Tufts University also made a separate investigation about the incident, and concluded that Dr Tang had ethical shortcomings. She was banned from conducting human research for two years. She will also be supervised in future research.

Aside from these issues, opponents also pointed out that the research was done using meals that are high in fat that would favor positive results of the experiment. The meals were supplemented with 10g butter, 100g of pork meat and egg. Vitamin A needs fat for it to be effectively absorbed by the body. Opponents say that this is not consistent with reality wherein poor families are unable to buy balanced diet.

“We believe that the Golden Rice feed testing in children is rigged to support its claims in eradicating Vitamin A deficiency. As the court has stated, the researchers has cut corners to hasten the commercialization of the product. They have also done the study in secret; no one was informed that a nutritional study was being conducted to children. We suspect that this same research will also be done to Filipino children, as they are fast tracking the commercialization of Golden Rice in the country. We need to be vigilant” added Dr Medina.

In the Philippines, continuous opposition by farmers and the proponents’ failure to increase the yield of Golden Rice have set back the commercialization of the said GM crop for one to two years. More and more communities, municipalities and cities are also putting in place ordinances against the planting of GM crops in their areas. Also farmers have been setting up boycott campaigns such as putting up “GMO Free Farms” signages in their fields to inform farmers to stay away from GM crops.###