Members of various civil society groups, farmers, consumers and academic experts have submitted their petition to the Department of Agriculture, asking for the review of the Biosafety Permits issued to Golden Rice (GR2-E) and BT Eggplant (EE-Eggplant).
In a statement, Bayanihan sa Agrikultura, a coalition of 98 concerned agricultural and aquaculture organizations, raised alarm on the people’s exposure to biosafety, health and environmental risks, impacts and uncertainties without safeguards on the liability and redress once these genetically modified (GM) farm products are released to the environment.
The petitioners are composed of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE), Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, Rice Watch and Action Network, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives, former Senator Orlando Mercado, among others.
The petitioners argued for the revocation of the Biosafety Permits because of non-compliance to the procedural requirements and improper conduct of the field trial and commercial propagation of the Golden Rice, among other things.
The groups also said in the petition that the Biosafety Permits were issued to Golden Rice and BT Eggplant without complying with required transparency and public participation and consultation mechanisms as prescribed by the Joint Department Circular 01-2016.
The Biosafety Permit for the commercial propagation for Golden Rice and the direct use, food, and feed for BT Eggplant were issued on July 21, 2021.
In an online forum recently, members of the Bayanihan sa Agrikultura vied for the integration of all the national laws, regulations and guidelines into a comprehensive code that will address, not only the technology questions but the impact of GMOs on the people and the environment’s health, safety, biodiversity, livelihood and income, and guided by the Constitutional framework that prescribes the people’s right to healthy and balanced ecology.
“The problem is the lack of a mother law or code that will integrate all these regulations and policies to help protect the farmers, the farming communities and the country in general, on the issues and concerns raised about the use of biotechnology for food, seeds and other planting materials,” explained lawyer Zelda Soriano of the Community Legal Help and Public Interest Center.
The Joint Department Circular has limited benefits especially to farmers because the administrative, criminal and civil liabilities have to be litigated in courts which is a lengthy, expensive and difficult process. Meanwhile, the remedies sought by farmers are immediate in nature because these involve their livelihood, particularly their capacity to be able to plant for the next season,” she added.