An Open Letter to Secretaries Proceso J. Alcala, Ramon J.P. Paje,
Janette P. Loreta-Garin, Mel Senen Sarmiento;
and Mario G. Montejo on the
DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular No. 1, Series of 2016

We, civil society and peoples’ organizations, call on the Honourable Secretaries to extend, expand and improve the on-going consultation and approval of the DA-DOH-DENR-DOST-DILG-DTI-DFA Joint Department Circular to replace the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8 (DAO No. 8) series of 2002 to ensure informed, substantive, adequate and meaningful participation of all stakeholders. Otherwise, the approval of the current draft, set on Feb. 23, by the Honourable Secretaries, will defeat the decision of our Highest Court and violate the Filipinos’ Constitutional rights to health, a balanced and healthful ecology, information, and public participation.

In December 2015, the Supreme Court passed judgement to permanently ban the field-testing of Bt talong, and temporarily ban all applications for contained use, field testing, propagation, commercialization, and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pending new rules that will replace the flawed DAO No. 8. This was after the Highest Court’s finding that in the face of the uncertainty, and the possibility of irreversible and serious harm of GMOs based on the evidence on record, and current state of GMO research worldwide, the government’s regulatory agencies failed to operationalize the National Biosafety Framework (NBF) in the DAO No. 8, and failed to implement the NBF in the crucial stages of risk assessment and public consultation, including the determination of applicability of environmental impact assessment to GMO field testing thus compelling the application of the precautionary principle.

However, the very flaws of DAO No. 8 have not been corrected in the the draft JDC and the limited, fast-tracked consultation for the JDC once again leaves the Filipino public behind in the decision making.

Call for scientific studies and robust, independent assessments

The JDC continues to presume that GMOs are the same as their conventional counterparts and so requires no actual tests on their safety as food or feed despite lack of scientific consensus for this presumption and approach. As a precaution, we ask that the JDC provides for more scientific studies on the safety and actual and long-term impacts of GMOs; environmental impacts assessment; and social and other risks assessment.

We further ask for requirements for health studies; for regulatory standards, and definition of the responsibilities, duties and capacity of each regulatory body.

In the current draft, the DOH for example, is tasked with determining safety without elaboration; the environmental impact assessment is still not required; and safeguards are inadequate to protect the independence of regulators. Also, some sections still need to be clarified, substantiated and agreed on to operationalize the requirements of the NBF and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Provide for liability and redress mechanisms

We further ask the Honourable Secretaries that there should be provisions in the JDC for the following: notice and hearing of stakeholders’ opposition to GMOs application; appeal to a decision on application; protection and compensation of farmers whose farms get contaminated with unwanted GMOs; continuous impacts monitoring on health and environment considering that the negative effects of GMOs may take time before they manifest; labelling, for effective impacts monitoring; protection for scientists and researchers whose studies and experiments yield findings and recommendations against, or inconclusive for, GMOs; and protection and compensation for those whose health is harmed or when the environment is adversely affected by GMOs.

These are fundamental issues that were not covered or adequately discussed due to the limited and fast-tracked consultation afforded to the public.

We humbly urge the Honourable Secretaries to take this as an opportune moment to improve and strengthen the Philippine biosafety regulation through a careful, inclusive and transparent process.

Signed:

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF)
Greenpeace
MASIPAG
SIBAT, Inc.
RESIST Agrichem TNCs!
Green Action PH
SEARICE
CHIMES
AGHAM
Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation
SCM
TEBTEBBA
no2gmo
Save the Coconut Movement