Why Did Farmers, Scientists, and Advocates Filed the Writ of Kalikasan to Stop the Commercial Propagation of GMO Crops Golden Rice and BT Talong? 

May 8, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

What is the Petition for Writ of Kalikasan?

The Writ of Kalikasan is a remedy available to a natural or juridical person, entity authorized by law, peoples organization, non-governmental organization, or any public interest group accredited by or registered with any government agency, on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.

The Petition is the legal action of Petitioners MASIPAG, et al to prevent or stop the commercial propagation of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant.

When was the Petition for Writ of Kalikasan filed?

It was filed on October 17, 2022.

Where was the Petition for Writ of Kalikasan filed?

The Petition was filed at the Supreme Court

Who are the Petitioners in this case?

  • Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para Sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG)
  • Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines (GREENPEACE)
  • 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), Inc.
  • Former senator and defense secretary Orlando Mercado
  • Crop scientist Dr. Teodoro Mendoza
  • Former commissioner of the National Anti-Poverty Liza Maza
  • University of the Philippines Professor Reginald Vallejos
  • Social critic and concerned citizen Mae Paner
  • Farmers Virginia Nazareno, Jocelyn Jamandron, and Lauro Diego

The Petitioners are composed of non-profit corporations, coalition of local farmers, scientists and non- government organizations, advocates of sustainable use of biodiversity, concerned consumers and citizens.

Who are the Respondents in this case?

  • Department of Agriculture (DA)
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
  • Department of Health (DOH)
  • Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)
  • Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)
  • University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB)

Why did Petitioners file a Petition for Writ of Kalikasan?

Despite the dangers of irreversible damage or risks to the environment, biodiversity of rice and eggplant, and human health, the Respondents likewise approved the biosafety permits despite non-compliance with the rules and regulations governing biosafety licenses and activities. Moreover, respondent UPLB filed an application for commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant without conducting another field trial under the new and stricter standards of JDC No. 1-2016.

The JDC No. 1 – 2016 is the rules and regulations for the research and developent, handling and use, transboundary movement, release into the environment, and management of Genetically-Modified Plant and Plant Products derived from the use of modern biotechnology between DOST, DA, DENER, DOH, and DILG.

Why do Petitioners oppose the commercial Propagation of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant?

We oppose the commercial propagation of the said GMOs due to the following reasons:

  1. The permits for commercial propagation of golden rice and for direct use as food or feed for Bt eggplant as well as the application for commercial propagation of Bt eggplant have a causal link or reasonable connection to an environmental damage of the nature and magnitude contemplated under the rules on writ of kalikasan.
  2. The Respondent BPI should be mandated to revoke the biosafety permits for commercial propagation of golden rice and for direct use as food and feed of Bt eggplant and deny the application for commercial propagation of Bt eggplant for failure to comply with, or suspend the effectivity /implementation of these permits until safety and compliance are proven, consistent with, the requirements of JDC No. 1- 2016, the regulation at the time of permits issuance/application, and other environmental laws.
  3. The Petitioners are aggrieved by the act or omission of Respondents DA and BPI. Their health is compromised, and the farmers’ livelihood is at risk given the uncertainties on the safety, environmental impacts and efficacy of these GM crops, and lack of liability safeguards.
  4. Respondents DA and BPI neglected to require the complete submission of all necessary documents for field trial of Golden Rice and proof that Bt eggplant is supposedly safe for consumption.

How did the respondents fail to comply with the legal requirements under JDC-2016?

Legal requirements were not complied with considering, among others, that:

  1. The IBC did not include a local elective official from the Province of Isabela as community representative;
  2. The application for field trial of Golden Rice did not attach the necessary supporting documents;
  3. Despite the fact the the Supreme Court already found BT eggplant to be unsafe, respondent UPLB did not submit evidence to support that Bt Eggplant “does not pose greater risks to biodiversity, human and animal health than its conventional counterpart;p”
  4. Respondent BPI issued permits without the required risks and impacts assessments. Respondents DENR and DOH merely submitted filled-up questionnaires. There was no proof of conduct of evaluations and public participation through their respective Biosafety Committees; more so, proof of assessments that are consistent with the substantive requirements of the EIS System pursuant to P.D. No. 1586, the NBF and R.A. No. 10611, and based on the Philippine National Framework and Guidelines for Environmental Health Impact Assessment, as required by JDC No. 1 – 2016.

What should have been done differently by the respondents?

Respondents should have complied with the strict requirements imposed by JDC-2016 to ensure proper biosafety decisions in approving biosafety permit applications. They should have properly implemented environmental and risk assessments and not treated the same as empty casual requirements.

What do the Petitioners want to happen?

The Respondents shall refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant until such time that proof of safety and compliance to legal requirements is shown to protect the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology or to the protection, preservation, rehabilitation or restoration of the environment. The Petitioners specifically demanded the following in the Petition:

  • ISSUE a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) directing Respondents to refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and issuing a biosafety permit for commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant;
  • DIRECT the Respondents to cease and desist from commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant until such time that proof ofsafety and compliance to legal requirements is shown;
  • DECLARE all the Biosafety Permits for Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant as null and void; and,
  • DIRECT the Respondents, as required by the relevant laws and regulation, to perform independent risks and impacts assessments, get the prior and informed consent of farmers and indigenous people, and put in place liability mechanisms in case of damages.