Asserting that the country’s approval process for GMOs is unconstitutional and "hopelessly flawed," Greenpeace and Searice yesterday filed a petition for injunction seeking to stop the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Department of Agriculture from approving the application of Bayer for its genetically-modified (GMO) rice strain.
The petition questioned the constitutionality of the DA Administrative Order (AO) 8 (series of 2002), the guidelines for the approval of GMOs. It also seeks a temporary restraining order
(TRO) to prevent the DA and the BPI from taking any further action on the application for approval of the GMO rice Bayer LL62 for use in food, feed, and for processing.
"The system for GMO approvals in the country is hopelessly flawed. It completely brushes aside public voice in what should be a grave issue of public concern," said Danny Ocampo, Greenpeace Genetic-Engineering Campaigner. "Right now the DA and the BPI are in the process of approving what could be the first genetically-manipulated rice for public consumption in the country. How much do Filipinos know about this and what voice do they have in such a process? Very little. And yet, for the whole country, the impending approval of this genetically-altered rice will certainly be an alarming precedent that will irrevocably alter the future of our most important staple food."
Greenpeace questioned the lack of public voice and public consultation on GMO approvals, particularly in the case of Bayer LL62’s application. Among the grounds cited in the petition are: the "public consultation" requirements under DA AO 8 are grossly insufficient and violate the minimum standards set by the Constitution in recognizing the right of the people to matters of public concern under Article III, Section 7; the pro forma requirement on public consultation in DA AO 8 impairs the policy set in AO 8 itself to guarantee protection to health and the environment, consistent with the constitutional guarantees under Article II, Sections 16 and 17; and that unless restrained by the courts, with the mere publication of Bayer’s Public Information Sheet (PIS) on the GMO rice LL62 as the sole requirement under AO 8 to indicate the conduct of public consultation, there is no "legal" obstacle that would prevent the DA and the BPI from approving GMO rice Bayer LL62 for direct use in feed, food and for processing.
The GMO rice Bayer LL62 is rice whose DNA has been injected with genetic material from an entirely different organism to resist glufosinate, a powerful weed killer also produced by Bayer, which is meant to be used in conjunction with the said crop. Bayer filed an application with the BPI on August 26, 2006 for the approval of the said GMO rice in the country.
Greenpeace has repeatedly requested the BPI for official information regarding the application. The DA and the BPI, however, have been quiet, stating only that it is under review and that Bayer has "complied" with the requirement to submit a PIS under DA AO 8.
To date, there has been no substantial disclosure by BPI nor the DA to the public regarding the application and the actual status of the application. But, if approved, Bayer LL62 will be the first
genetically-modified rice in the Philippines. The Philippines will also be the first country in the world to approve a genetically-altered strain of its most important staple food crop.
Bayer filed the application at the height of the biggest genetic contamination case concerning the US rice supply. Non-GMO US long grain rice crops were found to have been tainted with Bayer’s LL601, a GMO similar to LL62. Export shipments of tainted US long grain rice were subsequently rejected by markets around the world, plunging the US rice industry into a crisis. Genetically-altered rice is not approved in most parts of the world because of concerns about health and environmental risks.
"GMOs have never been proven safe for human consumption and poses grave risks to the environment as they can contaminate GMO-free crops and ecosystems. Once they do, the process of recalling and tracing genetically-altered organisms and their trail of contamination is extremely expensive, if not almost impossible," said Corazon De Jesus, Searice Policy Officer. "Instead of approving different GM varieties, our government should focus its resources in developing traditional varieties and promoting sustainable agriculture which gives better yields without harming the environment and which puts the farmers’ interests, rather than those of greedy multinational agricultural firms, at heart."