ILOILO CITY – Farmers’ organizations, academe, civil society groups, church personalities and individuals launched yesterday, March 25, the Panay Alliance of Concerned Citizens for Health and Environmental Protection or PACCEP, an anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) alliance that aims to protect the environment and health of present and succeeding generations.
“We believe that GMO crops and animals are not sustainable and can cause the erosion of our genetic biodiversity. It is dangerous to our health and our natural environment,” Masipag Visayas advocacy officer Michelle Joy Navarro said.
“After decades of propagation of GMOs here in the Philippines, specifically GM corn, only big agro-chemical corporations and their local trader allies benefit from the GMO seed business while the small farmers who are planting it are being brought in further poverty and indebtedness as shown in our research,” Navarro said, also the lead convenor of PACCEP.
Masipag, together with think-tank IBON Foundation, conducted in 2012 a study entitled “Socio-economic Impacts of Genetically Modified Corn in the Philippines”.
“The impact on the environment such as soil erosion and landslides associated with the use of the glyphosate herbicide has also been observed. Soil acidity and ageing are likewise common for all the case areas. The emergence of new pests and super weeds resistant to glyphosate also forced corn farmers to use more pesticides and herbicides including those that have either been banned or have been found to have dangerous effects on health,” said the report.
Glyphosate, an herbicide chemical which is widely used in planting GM corn, has recently been declared by World Health Organization (WHO) as “probable human carcinogen” or can cause cancer to human.
“Millions of liters of glyphosate have been spilled in the farms of farmers planting GM corn since 2003. But with declaration of WHO, we believe that planting GM corn and using glyphosate can cause cancer,” Navarro said.
Currently, the Philippines have eight varieties of GM corn that were approved for propagation, and 16 proposals for field trials. The alliance at present is calling to stop further commercialization of GM corn and the impending commercialization of GM rice or Golden Rice.
Golden Rice is being tested and ready for propagation this year. According to proponents, golden rice could solve the Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) of many children and pregnant women in the country.
According to Masipag, the VAD problem in the country is being solved by programs like Vitamin-A immunization. There are also plants and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene that can be found only in the backyard and that golden rice is not that urgent solution as the proponent say it is.
“There is no enough clinical evidence and safety assessment as to prove that golden rice is safe for consumption and commercialization. Considering that rice is a major staple food of Filipinos, once this this is out in the market without first testing its safety, the whole population could suffer from adverse effects it may cause,” Navarro said.
Currently, the Philippines has no bio-safety law.
“We have no bio-safety law in the Philippines for risk assessment, liability and redress. Who do we blame for when our food and plants are contaminated? Who do we blame for when consumers get sick from eating GMO?” she added.
On her part, Pamanggas spokesperson Jessica Emperwa argued “the prevalence of VAD could be linked to multiple micro-nutrient deficiency which is caused by poverty. So golden rice is not the right solution to the problem. It is like giving a wrong prescription for an illness.”
“We have only the experiences of our farmers as our main force to stop any propagation of GMO in the country. We’ve seen with our own eyes how GMO only benefits the proponents and the farmers and consumers on the losing side. We don’t want any of that to continue or further worsen,” Emperwa added.
The alliance will lobby to local government units to pass resolutions banning the planting and commercialization of GMOs in their respective areas and will conduct social awareness campaigns for the general populace.