By Tyrone A. Velez
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – Non-government organizations supporting organic food and farms want local and national laws to ban genetically-modified crops such as the controversial Golden Rice for its detrimental effect to health and farmers’ income.

The Go Organic Davao City and Go Organic Mindanao gathered Thursday at Lispher Inn for a forum with city councilors to discuss the passing of an ordinance to stop GM crops in the city.

Atty. Lee Aurelo of Third World Network said the city needs this legislation to complement the Organic Agriculture Ordinance which the City Council passed in 2010.

“It should be a twin ordinance, as organic farming can’t co-exist with GMO farms because of the effects of pollination from GM varieties that will harm organic farms.”

Aurelo said working with LGUs to promote safer agriculture practices have reaped benefits for farmers and consumers alike.

She mentioned their success with LGUs in Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Bohol in passing ordinances against GMOs. “It’s a matter of political will. So why can’t Davao do the same?”

In 2010, the city stopped the UP Mindanao from its field testing of BT talong for failing to consult barangay and city officials. The Court of Appeals also ruled last May banning BT talong in the city.

But Aurelo said the local ordinance does not discount the need for a national legislation such as the Bio-Safety Law that mandates labeling of food and agriculture products that contain GMOs, and accountability of GMO promoters if farms are damaged and people get sick from consuming GM foods.

Besides, she said, there is a tendency for agencies to promote GM crops such as the case of the Department of Agriculture that supports testing of BT talong nationwide.

“This agency has a conflict of interest; it regulates and promotes GM crops at the same time,” said Aurello

Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of the farmers support network MASIPAG echoed Lee’s sentiments on the difficulty to lobby for legislation in Congress, especially now that the latter is caught in the pork barrel issue.

Medina raised concern on the Golden Rice variety that is being promoted by the Department of Agriculture and IRRI as a new type of rice. Golden Rice is said to contain beta carotene, a source of vitamin A, which would solve deficiency among malnourished children.

The Golden Rice was developed by Ingo Potrykus in Zurich and Peter Beyer Germany from 1991 to 2000, and bought by Syngenta.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation backed its food testing for US$ 10 million.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) ran field testing of this variety in Camarines Sur, which was recently uprooted by MASIPAG farmers in protest of GMOs.

But the Golden Rice variety faces criticisms. In his presentation, Medina said it has not undergone pre-testing to animals and some testing to humans, or any other safety assessment.

He further said that there is danger in genetic engineering crops as it is “so uncontrollable that each event from single experiment of the same materials results to different variety with unpredictable properties.”

Medina warned that the Golden Rice is a “Trojan Horse to create acceptability of GM crops and food, and the image of biotech corporations is recast as philanthropic and humanitarian.”

He also said BT crops costs a lot for farmers, accounting to 43-48% of their budget or around 60 to 80 thousand pesos.

Medina said Vitamin A deficiency could be addressed by many food sources such as leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potato and leaves, goat liver, palm oil, and melon. Two tablespoonfuls of carrots can supply the daily needs of b-carotene for an adult.

He said this shows that organic farming provides all the natural benefits to address nutrition concerns.

He further said organic farming also solves “food security and sovereignty not dictated by MNCs, but rather by sound practices of farmers.”

Medina, who joined the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) in 2005 to 2007 said this group stressed the need for “sustainable agriculture” including organic farming as it benefits small farmers.”  (Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)

 

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