DAVAO CITY – Groups advocating organic farming worry on the possible contamination of cornfields in Mindanao after a study conducted by farmers’ group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag) showed a white corn variety in Bukidnon tested positive with the genetically modified Round-up Ready (RR corn) hybrid traits.

The study was conducted on sige-sige corn samples in September last year by Masipag Mindanao. A similar test was reportedly conducted by the non-government environmental organization, Greenpeace, which had similar results.

Go-Organic Davao City (GODC) said Sige-sige refers to a white corn variety in which the seed can be used again during successive planting seasons.

In a policy forum held in Davao City Tuesday, GODC member Ann Fuertes said the RR corn “is a kind of GMO (genetically modified organism) corn that is tolerant to herbicide.”

“The bad news is many Davaoeños are consuming sige-sige corn, believing that GMOs are confined only to the yellow corn varieties,” she said.

“Organic farming advocates are against GMO crops because of its negative impact on health and environment,” Fuertes said.

Fuertes said the contamination can occur through “natural pollination, milling or even during the various stages of the agricultural production.”

In a paper on Socio-economic Impacts of Genetically Modified Corn in the Philippines, Masipag said that “one important part of farmers’ diet lost to planting GM corn is the glutinous white corn (kalimbugas) which farmers used to eat as an alternative staple or in combination with rice.”

Masipag said “farmers complain that they cannot eat the GM corn as replacement for rice or white corn because of uncertainty of its side effects.”

“But they cannot do this anymore, and if they have nothing to eat, they risk eating GM corn,” it said.

During its focused group discussions conducted among farmers in February to March 2012, Masipag has recorded several illnesses among individuals associated from consuming or handling the seeds of GM corn during planting and harvesting. The illnesses recorded among young children include urinary tract infection, kidney and liver problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer among the elderly.

However, Masipag said that “these preliminary data needs to be verified under extensive health studies.”

Despite this, Fuertes said the Department of Agriculture “should impose a moratorium on the release of GMO seeds to prevent its further spread and conduct testing to determine the extent of contamination.”

Geonathan Barro, regional coordinator of Masipag Mindanao said they also call on the city government to pass an ordinance banning GMO “to prevent GMO seeds from being sold in the local market.”

“This ordinance will further complement existing legislation like the Organic Agriculture Ordinance to sustain organic farming as a means to obtaining food security, while ensuring the health of the citizens and the environment,” Barro said.

The group is also calling for the strengthening of the implementation of the Davao City Organic Agriculture Ordinance to protect organic crops from being contaminated by GMOs.

Ordinance No. 0384-10 or the Organic Agriculture Ordinance of Davao City 2009 sets aside “agricultural zones that will be protected from encroachment and contamination of genetically-engineered crops and other similar activities.” (davaotoday.com)

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