On April 18, 2023, the Supreme Court during its En Banc deliberations issued a Writ of Kalikasan filed by various farmers organizations, scientists and civil society leaders spearheaded by MASIPAG. The Writ of Kalikasan seeks to stop the commercial propagation of the genetically modified crops Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant.
“We welcome this move by the Supreme Court in issuing the Writ of Kalikasan on Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant and its recognition that these genetically modified crops pose grave danger to our environment and health” said by MASIPAG national coordinator Alfie Pulumbarit.
Filed by various farmers organization, scientists and civil society leaders spearheaded by MASIPAG October of last year, the petition with prayer for the issuance of Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) aims to direct the proponents of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant to refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and issuing biosafety permits for commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant, cease and desist from commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant, declare all biosafety permits for Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant null and void, and perform independent risks and impact assessments, obtain the prior and informed consent of farmers and indigenous peoples.
For years, farmers and scientists have been pointing out the irreversible damage and risks to the environment, biodiversity of rice and eggplant through gene contamination, and human health that come with the propagation of GM Golden Rice and Bt eggplant. Moreover, despite the non-compliance with the rules and regulations governing biosafety licenses and activities, at the time of the GM crops issuance and conduct, and other environmental laws, the proponents particularly the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the University of the philippines-Los Banos (UPLB) likewise approved the said biosafety permits further rendering the genetically modified crops as unsafe and questionable.
“We hope that the Supreme Court shall grant our prayer to issue the Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO). It is most urgent that the propagation of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant shall be stopped as our local rice diversity and associated biodiversity are at stake with the threat of gene contamination coming from these genetically modified crops” added Pulumbarit.
Despite its high potential to trigger a nationwide irreversible gene contamination to the country’s rice and eggplant biodiversity that can lead to the extinction of local, traditional and heirloom rice and other crop varieties, the Golden Rice Project has been on its active implementation through its promotion in schools, markets, and local government units. Moreover, amid the 2015 standing ruling of the Supreme Court of its findings in GM crops being hazardous to health, several schools have already received its first Golden Rice porridge meal with little to no information regarding the adverse risks of consuming it.
While currently being distributed under “humanitarian use,” Golden Rice is ultimately patented under the agro-chemical corporation Syngenta, which has been known to contaminate environments around the world through its genetically modified crops, and supported by philanthropic institutions such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We are just getting started in asserting our food sovereignty against these corporate-led and harmful ‘solutions’ to hunger in the guise of genetically modified crops like Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant. Amid the issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan by the Supreme Court, we call on to everyone, even the proponents of these technologies, to join us in our mission to finally breakaway from this current backward agricultural system dominated by agri-TNCs, and in crafting a genuine pro-farmer agriculture and pro-people food system” ended by Pulumbarit.
Petitioners include farmer-led network Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI), Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns (SALINLAHI), and individuals including former defense secretary and senator Orlando Mercado, crop scientist Dr Teodoro Mendoza, University of the Philippines Manila professor and spokesperson of Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan Reggie Vallejos, social critic and concerned citizen Mae Paner, human rights advocate, and former Commissioner of the National Anti-Poverty Commission Liza Maza, farmers Virginia Nazareno, Jocelyn Jamandron, and rice breeder Lauro Diego.