While the new inter-agency administrative order supposedly addresses the concerns of the Supreme Court ruling on Bt-talong, the process of which the AO is being crafted is a blatant disregard of the essence of the SC decision: that GMOs and its possible hazards are of “paramount public importance,” thus, should ensure that they are well-informed and educated on the issue. The fast-tracking of the AO appears to be a concession to the big businesses and industries pushing for GMOs, while neglecting the welfare of the farmers and consumers and the environment. (The following article is published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 10, 2016)
Environment, agri groups buck issuance of GMO rules
Joint circular on importation of crops to be out soon
VARIOUS groups that are against the propagation of genetically modified (GM) crops said the government was railroading the issuance of new rules for the commercial cultivation and importation of such products as a final consultation session was held on Tuesday.
The groups include Greenpeace, Magsasaka at Syentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag), Green Action PH (Graph), Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), Pesticide Action Network Philippines, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and the Center or Health Initiatives and Management of Eco-systems.
Greenpeace campaigner Leonora Lava said in a press briefing that following the Supreme Court’s junking of the old GM crop rules last December, the concerned executive departments had conducted “so-called multistakeholder public consultations on Jan. 22 in Cebu City, Jan. 25 in Cagayan de Oro City and Jan. 27 in Quezon City.
The High Court had stopped tests on growing the so-called Bt talong, a variety of eggplant made pest-resistant with a gene of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
Along with that, the tribunal also declared void the DA’s Administrative Order No. 8, saying this failed to meet the minimum requirements for safety.
The consultation on Tuesday was to be the final session on a new joint department circular being drafted by the Departments of Science and Technology, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Interior and Local Government.
“They intend to issue the circular on Feb. 16,” Lava said. “That’s not even one month. Why the rush?”
Masipag national coordinator Chito Medina said the notice for consultation was circulated a week before in Luzon and Metro Manila and only two working days in advance in Visayas and Mindanao.
“Along with the short notice, the NCBP (National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines) also failed to provide an advanced copy of the draft [rules] that will be presented during the consultation,” Medina said.
“Add to this the ridiculously short program and the dominance in numbers of known GM crop promoters including representatives from agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta, we believe that the consultation is just a token one,” he added.
But according to Dennis Guerrero, chief of staff at the agriculture department, the anti-GM crop groups should focus on the substance of the draft.
“The draft and the process it is undergoing addresses all the points the Supreme Court raised in voiding the previous rules,” Guerrero said.
The lawyer added that comments from all parties will be entertained until Feb. 18 and the final version of the joint circular is expected to be issued before the end of this month.
“The draft is available for download through the websites of the DA, DOST and NCBP,” Guerrero said. “We have painstakingly addressed all the issues raised in the Supreme Court decision, especially that about the need for meaningful consultation with stakeholders.” Ronnel W. Domingo