Philippines: ‘Rice Deities’ Descend on Agriculture Department, Demand Protection from GMO Rice Threat

Apr. 17, 2007

Manila, 16 April 2007–Greenpeace activists dressed to symbolize the
bul-ul, a traditional Ifugao rice guardian, carried out a sit-in protest
at the Department of Agricultures (DA) doorsteps in Quezon City today.
The peaceful action was meant to tell the DA to act on its mandate to
protect the country’s food supply, in this case against looming GMO rice
(genetically-modified rice) threat posed by the agency’s pending
decision on GMO rice Bayer LL62.

As part of the protest, the activists also displayed a banner with the
message “Keep our rice GMO-free!” and delivered a bul-ul carving to DA
Secretary Arthur Yap’s office to remind him daily of the DA’s important
role in watching over the countrys precious rice supply. The bul-ul,
Greenpeace says, also symbolizes how this grain is inextricably linked
to our culture and way of life, and should serve to remind us how GMO
rice must never become a reality in the Philippines.

“We are calling on the DA to be a vigilant guardian of our country’s
most precious food crop,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigns
director Von Hernandez. “Our rice is under threat from corporate-driven
genetic-tampering. Instead of entertaining the application of the GMO
rice Bayer LL62 the DA should ensure that our rice supply is safe both
to the environment and human health.”

“GMOs pose inherent risks to the environment and human health. These
genetically-manipulated organisms threaten biodiversity, food security,
farmers’ livelihoods, and consumers’ choice. As the guardian of the
country’s rice supply, it is clear that the DA should act now and reject
the application of Bayer LL62, as well as all other GMO rice
applications in the future,” he added.

The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), an attached agency of the DA, is
currently reviewing an application for the approval of the GMO rice
Bayer LL62, for food, feed and processing in the country. Bayer LL62 is
rice genetically-manipulated to resist the powerful weed-killer
glufosinate which is meant to be used in conjunction with the said GMO
crop. Greenpeace has been actively blocking the approval of Bayer LL62,
asserting that its entry into the country’s food chain will have
disastrous consequences on the Philippines’ most important food crop.
The approval of Bayer LL62 will further set a dangerous precedent that
will open the floodgates to the future entry of other GMO rice strains
in the country.

Bayer submitted its application for the authorization of LL62 GMO rice
in August 2006. But although the BPI announced last month that LL62 is
still under assessment, they have yet to publicly disclose how far the
application has gone, and at what date the public can expect the final
decision. Greenpeace says that this is why their call for the rejection
of Bayer LL62 is urgent.

“If protecting the integrity of our rice is their intention, then there
is no need for the BPI and the DA to dilly-dally over a decision that
should in fact be straightforward. But the BPI’s record in approving
GMOs is far from reassuring. In the 49 months since December 2002, the
BPI has approved 40 GMOs for commercial use in the Philippines. But the
general public, who ultimately consumes these GMOs, is hardly aware of
this development,” said Hernandez. “If we had not raised the issue of
LL62 rice into public attention, would the BPI have given this
application the prominent public exposure that it rightly deserves?
Based on the little they have disclosed so far, perhaps not. And yet,
this is a decision that will affect all of us Filipinos at the most
basic level in the decades to come.”

“This also therefore serves as a challenge addressed to the DA that they
make known to the public whether they are committed to protecting the
integrity of our rice and rice supply or not,” he added.

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded on
the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and
providing all people access to safe and nutritious food.
Genetic-engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that
contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity, and poses
unacceptable risks to health.

Attachments (available at, or upon request):
1. Scanned copy of the correspondence between Greenpeace and BPI
2. Scanned copy of the list of approved GMOs in the country as faxed by
the BPI to Greenpeace

For more information:
Von Hernandez, Campaigns Director, +63 917 526 3050
Daniel Ocampo, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, +63 897 6416
Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969, +63 2 434 7034 loc

Lea Guerrero
Media Campaigner
Greenpeace Southeast Asia
tel: +63 2 434 7034
fax: +63 2 434 7035
mob: +63 916 374 4969
skype: leaguerrero

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