“The SC ruling is the people’s triumph.” — Ramer Tandoy, secretary-general of Integrated People’s Coalition against Environmental Plunder
By ALEX D. LOPEZ
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — A coalition group composed of farmers’ organizations, environmental groups and other concerned sectors here welcomed the Supreme Court’s (SC) issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan to stop the field trials of the controversial Bacillus thuringiensis eggplant or Bt talong (Bt eggplant).
Bt talong, a genetically modified crop introduced in the Philippines is also called Fruit-and-Shoot Borer-resistant talong in India. The Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy intended for the protection of one’s constitutional right to a healthy environment.
“The SC ruling is the people’s triumph,” Ramer Tandoy, secretary-general of the Integrated People’s Coalition against Environmental Plunder, said in an e-emailed statement.
In an en banc ruling dated May 2, 2012, the SC granted the petition filed by Greenpeace and other environmental groups to stop the field testing of Bt talong.
“It’s a positive ruling in favor of the Filipino people’s constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology,” Francis Morales, secretary general of environmental alliance Panalipdan, said, adding, “GMO (genetically modified organism) must be stopped because it does not address food security for the Filipinos.”
Respondents of said petition were the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) Foundation, Inc., UP Mindanao (UPMin) Foundation, Inc. and International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAABA)-Southeast Asia Center.
Tandoy, also an advocacy point person of Masipag (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura)-North Cotabato, urged the management of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan town to implement the SC ruling. He also challenged the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of North Cotabato’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Kabacan’s Sangguniang Bayan to withdraw the resolutions they previously passed endorsing the field testing of Bt talong at the USM.
“As government officials, they are bound to execute the SC order. As public servants they should prioritize the welfare of the people, not the interest of big corporations engaged in the business of seeds, chemicals and the promoters of the Bt talong project,” Tandoy said.
Tandoy added, there’s no more legal basis for the ISAABA-Southeast Asia Center, UPLB Foundation, Inc., UPMin Foundation, Inc., BPI, FPA, DENR’s EMB, other proponents and related agencies to continue their Bt talong project after the SC released its order.
Last April, both the UPLB Institute of Plant Breeding and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center confirmed that Bt talong had already been planted in the field testing site at the USM-Kabacan.
The planting was materialized after endorsements were granted last year by the local legislative body of Kabacan and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of North Cotabato. Likewise, a memorandum of agreement was also signed between the Bt talong proponents and the management of USM. The actual field testing was also witnessed by some officials of DA-XII.
Prior to the actual field testing, farmers and environmental groups here had declared their opposition to Bt talong citing the threats it pose to human health, saying, it can negatively impact the liver, kidneys or blood when ingested. They also exposed the project’s damaging effects to the environment particularly referring to the dangers it pose to biodiversity when planted in open fields.
Greenpeace said the Philippine government has approved a total of 67 applications for GMO importation, consumption and propagation since 2002. It cited the massive entry of Bt corn that is already approved for planting and actually being eaten nowadays by Filipinos despite the serious questions raised regarding their safety.
“Greenpeace believes the granting of the Writ of Kalikasan is a recognition of the threats GMOs pose to human health and the environment,” Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace-Southeast Asia campaigner, said.
Ocampo added, the highest court of the land “has given hope to Filipinos as its decision now puts into the spotlight the country’s flawed GMO approval system which has never rejected any GMO application, allowing dangerous GMO crops to be eaten and planted by Filipinos.”
Panalipdan’s Morales said GMO is diametrically opposed to organic farming or sustainable agriculture their group is pushing.
“GMO is but a scheme for monopoly capitalist control of the country’s food system to rake in megaprofits to the detriment of people’s health and environmental rights,” Morales said, adding, “We must be vigilant because the Aquino government is hell-bent on promoting GMO upon the dictates of US and its transnational agrochemical companies. (With a report from Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com