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by George M. de la Cruz
03-June-2009 Sun Star Bacolod
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AGRICULTURE experts and scientists Tuesday unanimously declared that genetically-modified organisms (GMO) are safe for both humans and animals.

However, there is still a possibility that GMO could still cause "risks" which Dr. Nina G. Gloriani theorized would only be "on a very low level."

Gloriani opined that there is no exact definition for "safe" but stressed that "anything that has the affinity to thrive with ecology would always adapt to it on a certain level and strength."

The group that presented scientific explanations and features of GMO in Tuesday's seminar on biotechnology and biosafety at the Business Inn, in Bacolod City, recommended the need to modify or revise some provisions of Provincial Ordinance 007-2007, which bans the entry of GMO-infected agri products into the province.

But livestock, poultry raisers and grain growers, who were present during the seminar, remained vehement in opposing said ordinance. The provincial government, through the ad hoc committee, is presently studying possibilities whether to lift or not the ban it imposed on GMO-infected corn feeds.
Provincial Board Members Patrick Lacson and Enrique Miguel Lacson, who chair the committees on commerce, trade and industry and on food security, respectively, represented Gov. Isidro Zayco in Tuesday's seminar.

Dr. Randy A. Hautea, coordinator and director for Global and SEAsia Center, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), opined that those provisions, which are not consistent with its implementation need to be revised or modified.

"To ban the entry of any agri-product believed to be GMO-infected is not as fair to the farmers (considering) the fact that the issue on GMO is not only exclusive to agriculture but in ornamentals, food production, among others, and those that has the affinity to biodiversity. Ban per se is selective and in the case of Negros, appears to have exclusivity, making some of the provisions of the ordinance inconsistent, which actually needed to be revised," Hautea said.

He noted that if agri products are to be banned, then a ban on pesticides will also follow because it is as well genetically-engineered and the farmers are the group of people who would most likely suffer the consequence.

Findings on the studies conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA), also with the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, proved that GMO is "praiseworthy for improving the lives of the poor, especially the farmers group."

"We don't allow, as a rule of law, neither tolerate those that has a bad effect to biodiversity," said Dr. Saturnina Halos, chair of the Department of Agriculture Biotech Advisory Team.

Distinctions between a GM-positive and non-GM organisms were also presented wherein those which are positive were said to be more cost-effective, safe for human consumption, and benefit human health, could help the developing world, cut down on pesticide and herbicide use, and help preserve natural habitats while those which are negative could increase herbicide and pesticide use, could damage non-GM farmers, have unpredictable health risks, won't help feed the developed world, and mainly benefits big biotechnology companies.

Non-GM corn is infested with corn borers and is contaminated with bacteria and fungi. These fungi produce aflatoxins which can cause or associated with liver cancer, the presentation showed.
"This corn may have also been treated with chemical pesticides but not protected against corn borer; and farmers are exposed to chemical pesticides with ill-effects on human health," Hautea said.

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