SC stops temporarily commercial propagation of genetically modified rice, eggplant

The Supreme Court (SC) has issued a Writ of Kalikasan that effectively stopped the government temporarily from commercially propagating genetically modified rice and eggplant, known as Golden Rice and BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant.

The writ was issued last April 18 during the SC’s full court session in Baguio City.

The writ directed the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Health (DOH), the director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and the University of the Philippines in Los Baños in Laguna to file a verified return within 10 days from notice,

The SC’s public information office (PIO) did not indicate in its press statement when the resolution that contained the writ was issued and received by the parties in the petition.  A copy of the resolution was not available as of posting.

The PIO said the SC acted on the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan filed by several groups led by the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag).

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy for the protection of one’s right to “a balanced and healthful environment….”

The group asked the SC to issue a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against the commercial propagation of Golden Rice and BT eggplant until such time that the proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown.

It also asked the SC to declare null and void all biosafety permits for Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant null and void, and to implement liability mechanisms in case of damage, as required by law.

In its petition, the group alleged that both Golden Rice and BT eggplant are genetically modified organisms.

It claimed that Golden Rice, which is patented to Syngenta, a transnational agrochemical corporation, is a rice that has been modified by inserting a gene from maize and a gene from bacteria found in soil which allows the plant to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice.

It also claimed that Bt eggplant was designed so that the plant would produce its own toxin, to kill the fruit and shoot borer which is one of several common pests that consume and damage eggplants.

Aside from Masipag, the other petitioners are the Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines (Greenpeace), Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI), Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns (SALINLAHI), Inc., Orlando Mercado, Teodora Mendoza, Liza Maza, Reginald Vallejos, Mae Paner, Virgina Nazareno, Jocelyn Jamandron, and Laura Diego.

Earlier, the same group had asked the DA to review biosafety permits issued to Golden Rice and BT eggplant.  It was not known immediately as of posting the result of the plea for review.

The group 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 farm products are released to the environment.

It alleged that the biosafety permits were issued to Golden Rice and Bt eggplant in 2021 without complying with required transparency and public participation and consultation mechanisms.