DAVAO CITY – Organic food advocates hailed the Supreme Court ruling which permanently stopped the field trials of the genetically modified eggplant or BT Talong saying it is a “milestone” in their campaign to protect the country’s agricultural biodiversity.

Nena Morales, member of the Go Organic Davao City (GODC) said the Supreme Court “showed that it recognizes the danger that genetically modified crops pose to the ecological integrity of our local agriculture.”

She said the precautionary principle is an internationally accepted principle which holds that “lack of scientific certainty is no reason for inaction at the risk of potentially serious or irreversible harm to the environment.”

The GODC network was among those who opposed the field trials of BT Talong in the University of the Philippines Mindanao Campus in Bago Oshiro, Tugbok District here in 2010.

Following the cease-and-desist order issued by the local government against the field experiment, GODC members participated in the uprooting of the transgenic crop to stop its pollen from contaminating nearby crops.

Organic farming advocates have long criticized the government’s inadequate biosafety measures with regards to experimentation on genetically modified crops.

Interface Development Interventions Inc Executive Director Ann Fuertes said “the national bio-safety law is not adequate to protect our environment from GMO contamination because it lacks enforcement power and leave gaps in coverage.”

Fuertes pointed out that that the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order (DAO) 08-2002 does not require proponents to conduct health and human safety studies before releasing the GMO into an open environment during field trials.

“They only require it during the commercialization phase. This means that if the GMO is later found to have a significant negative impact on the human health, there will no chance of recalling it because it has already been released to the wild and would have already contaminated the local native crops,” she said.

She said the policy gap will no longer be exploited by GMO proponents because the Supreme Court ruling has also declared DAO 08-2002 null and void .

“This means that no GMOs will be sold, imported or experimented upon until new bio-safety guidelines are drafted and implemented,” she said.

The groups believe the ruling will impact several genetically modified crops already in the pipeline for field testing or propagation , including the also controversial Golden Rice.

“But we have to remain vigilant because while a nationwide ban on GMOs remains to be the larger goal, we also need to lobby the DA for stricter biosafety guidelines  to protect the environment and the health of the people,” Fuertes said. (davaotoday.com)

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