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60% of PHL harvested corn is genetically modified
by Henry Tacio
14-August-2012 GMA News Online
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Genetically modified bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn accounts for 60 percent or 2.082 million metric tons (MMT) of the total 3.47 MMT harvested for the first half this year, agriculture assistant secretary Edilberto De Luna said Tuesday.

The agriculture assistant chief said he expects the volume of Bt corn to increase to as much as 4.476 MMT this year.

De Luna said most farmers prefer growing the pest- and disease-resistant corn because of its durability and higher yield.

“We have been using Bt corn for several years now,” said Jerry Due, who has fought corn borers since he started farming in 1990. “We hardly use pesticides and the yield has improved.”

Corn farmers’ harvests have been threatened by the Asian corn borer, a pest that destroys up to 80 percent of traditional corn varieties. Insect-protected Bt corn served as an alternative for corn growers to control pests without using pesticides.

“Another benefit of Bt corn is that we do not have to burn the residue in our harvest anymore. We just allow the residue to decompose in the field to become fertilizers,” farmer Due added.

However, environmental activists denounced the use of genetically modified corn due to health and environmental risks.

“The onslaught of GMO (genetically modified organism) into our environment and into the food we eat is a threat to biodiversity and human health. The Departments of Agriculture (DA) and the Environment [DENR] should stop GMO invasion in the Philippines to ensure a safer and greener future for our children,” said Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, in a press release during World Environment Day.

Greenpeace cited a study in 2007 by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini, who reported adverse effects on the liver and kidney of mice fed with Philippine Bt corn.

Professor Seralini, who was in Manila last March for a series of forums with Greenpeace, said more than 58 varieties of GMO crops have been approved for importation by the DA despite the absence of scientific proof that these crops are safe for consumption.

The crop was approved for commercialization in 2002 by the Bureau of Plant Industry, with plantations of Bt corn in Isabela, Pangasinan and Cagayan. Bt corn was tested first in South Cotabato but was prevented due to local resistance to the genetically modified corn.

Some provinces prohibit the plantation of Bt corn, such as in Negros Occidental.

“These prohibitions are strange,” a DA official said, “since the corn consumed by poultry and livestock in Negros Occidental and other provinces come from Bt corn stands.” — with reports from Marc Jayson Cayabyab/DVM, GMA News
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