Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) urges local governments in Mindanao to support the growing clamor of local farmers, scientists, and consumers against the commercial release of genetically modified crops Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant.
On April 18, the Supreme Court granted a writ of kalikasan to the petitioners led by MASIPAG who sought to stop the commercial propagation of genetically modified rice and eggplant products over environmental and health concerns and compliance with legal requirements.
“We, in MASIPAG, encourage local government units in Mindanao to promote and uphold the people’s right to a balanced and healthful ecology. We reiterate that genetically modified (GM) crops like Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant have dangers of irreversible damage to the environment, biodiversity of rice and eggplant, and human health,” said Leo XL Fuentes, regional coordinator of MASIPAG Mindanao.
In 2021, the Department of Agriculture (DA) approved the propagation of beta carotene-enriched Malusog Rice, also known as Golden Rice, in 17 pioneer production areas across the country, including here in Mindanao namely Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Maguindanao, and North Cotabato.
Golden Rice, patented by transnational agrochemical corporation Syngenta, is a type of rice inserted with genes from maize and bacterium found in soil. Proponents of the said technology claim Golden Rice will serve Vitamin A-deficient children, mothers, and pregnant women, especially in areas with severe malnutrition.
However, data shows that beta-carotene content in Golden Rice is measly and inconsistent. On the contrary, a wide array of safe and low-cost vegetables, fruits, and other crops are a dependable source of nutrition for communities. Vitamin A deficiency and other malnutrition issues confronting many households can also be traced to the lack of access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food due to poverty.
The commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant was also approved last year. Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis is a soil bacterium injected into the genes of eggplants to produce its own toxin to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), a common pest that consumes and damage eggplants.
To recall, organic farmers and other residents in Davao City opposed the conduct of field testing for Bt Eggplant in the city in 2010, as it exposes local varieties to contamination, and runs counter to the local organic agriculture ordinance that pushes for organic farming systems and practices.
“The entry of GM crops into farmers’ fields threatens the rich genetic diversity in the region. For years, thousands of traditional varieties of crops have been developed and taken care of by small-scale farmers and indigenous people,” Fuentes said.
MASIPAG Mindanao believes that GM crops do not represent genuine development.
Fuentes calls on the government to promote safe, healthy, and sustainable food production by supporting genuine pro-farmer agriculture and a pro-people food system. ###