By TFIP (PR)
QUEZON CITY — “The indigenous peoples are also farmers. The commercialization of BT talong (Bacillus thuringiensis) and other genetically modified (GM) produce have an adverse effect on their food security and the biodiversity,” said Lorie Beyer, administrative officer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP).
“GM products like BT talong is a threat to the indigenous farmers. GM organisms are not the solution and will only worsen food insecurity in the country”, Beyer added. “Indigenous farmers fear that the traditional eggplant and other traditional varieties will be contaminated by BT and will undermine the richness of biodiversity. GM organisms are a threat to the biodiversity that ensures the sustainability of all life forms.”
TFIP’s Convenor Jill Cariño, in a separate statement, also explained that it is true that food insecurity is being experienced by many Filipino people and that the resurgence of traditional knowledge systems is the key to sustainable agriculture that would suffice the need. And she clarified that reviving and improving traditional natural resource management, knowledge, practices and institutions are not a backward practice nor translate to nativism. Instead of GMOs, Cariño said safe agricultural practices should be recognized and promoted to intensify food production in order to ensure staple food sufficiency and food security.
Genetically modified eggplant
The Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a microorganism from the soil genetically inserted into the eggplant to produce a toxic chemical against the fruit and shoot borer. Originally from India, Bt Talong is a genetically modified crop now being tested in various sites in the country. Field test areas include Laguna, Camarines Sur, Pangasinan and South Cotabato. Residents in these areas also reveal that proponents failed to conduct a public information campaign about Bt Talong which is a mandatory requirement before a new undertaking or project is introduced anywhere.
Dr. Romy Quijano, a toxicologist and a professor at the University of the Philippines, explained in a press conference on June 15, 2012 the adverse effects of Bt and other GMOs. He said, GMO is a harmful technology that has detrimental impacts on both animals and humans and the biodiversity. While there is no study conducted yet in the country on the effects of Bt Talong, Dr. Quijano criticizes the developers of informing the public that Bt Talong has no impact on human health.
“GMOs cause allergic reactions in the human body. A study in England shows that it also poses damage to the immune system,” Dr. Quijano added. It may be true that these effects were seen in rats, but it is very possible to happen to humans. In fact he said the viral vectors used in transferring genetically modified materials like Bt to plants can be reactivated and can cause diseases.
TFIP believes that the traditional varieties of crops in the country are enough to supply the food needs of the people, especially of eggplant which was never reported to be scarce. According to Beyer, the experiences of the indigenous farmers in Alfonso Lista in Ifugao and Datal Nay in Sarangani with Bt Corn reveal and only prove that GMOs do not benefit indigenous farmers. Planting Bt Corn did not improve the indigenous farmers’ livelihood. They are also harmful to peoples’ health and destructive to the chain of life in the environment. In a report by a farmers’ organization, they have experienced itching when handling GM crops like Bt corn. Moreover, many of them have heard that carabaos in nearby municipalities have died after eating vegetative parts of Bt corn.
Basil Prado, a farmer in Nueva Vizcaya said GM products like Bt Talong will only worsen the difficult situation of the farmers. “The expensive GM seed that cannot be replanted and reproduced, unlike traditional varieties, will only put farmers in huge debt, plus the chemical input needed by GM products is expensive,” he added.
“It is the right of the farmer to decide on what seed he is going to plant and what to serve his family and other people on the table. If traditional varieties are contaminated by GM organisms then where is our freedom of choice?” Prado exclaimed.
SC en banc issued Writ of Kalikasan
On May 2, 2012 the Supreme Court issued a Writ of Kalikasan against the field testing of Bt Talong. Though it is a good action to protect and advance the constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology, petitioners said the issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan is not enough since Bt Talong developers continue to conduct field tests in different areas in the country.
The Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT), Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc., Pilipina Pilipina, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Miriam Peace, Sarilaya, Lingkod Tao Kalikasan, SEARICE, NO2GMOs Philippines, Greenpeace Philippines, CBCP-NASSA, including TFIP, call the SC to immediately issue a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) vs Bt Talong in the country. “We ask the SC to halt the field tests of BT talong and revoke all the permits related to the project,” Dr. Chito Medina of MASIPAG said.
Concomitantly, they also ask the SC to issue as well a Writ of Continuing mandamus, which is a legal remedy under Philippine law available to injured persons when an agency or an officer of the government unlawfully neglects the performance of an act, excludes another from the enjoyment of rights, and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. # nordis.net