India declares GMOs unsafe, Greenpeace calls on Phl to follow suit
GREENPEACE called on the Philippine government to cancel all approvals of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) following a landmark move in India which is expected to put a stop to all GMO experimental field trials in the sub-continent.
The move–an official report submitted by the technical Expert committee set up by the Supreme Court of India comprising of India’s leading experts in molecular biology, toxicology and biodiversity–unanimously recommends a 10-year moratorium on all field trials of GM Bt food crops, due to serious safety concerns. The committee has also recommended a moratorium on field trials of herbicide tolerant crops until independent assessment of impact and suitability, and a ban on field trials of GM crops for which India is center of origin and diversity.
The report’s recommendations are expected put a stop to all field releases of GM food crops in India, including the controversial Bt eggplant, whose commercial release was put under an indefinite moratorium there last February 2010. Contrarily, the same Bt eggplant is currently being evaluated for approval in the Philippines.
“This official unanimous declaration on the risks of GMOs, by India’s leading biotech scientists is the latest nail on the coffin for GMOs around the world,” said Daniel M. Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It is yet another proof that GMOs are bad for the health, bad for the environment, bad for farmers and bad for the economy. The Philippines should learn from this expert recommendation and use it as a guide for more stringent policies concerning these transgenic crops.”
“Unfortunately, while leading experts in India are recommending an end to GMOs, certain Filipino scientists who midnight as paid lackeys of agro-chemical corporations, are attempting to railroad GM field trials in the country—without the benefit of a comprehensive and objective study and analysis of safety data. The Department of Agriculture should be the first one to put a stop to such indiscriminate promotion of GMOs as it goes against the interest of Filipino farmers and consumers,” he added.
The India Supreme Court report said that the moratorium was necessary because of the potential harm GM crops can cause to human health, and biodiversity. They also warned of the possibility that field trials will contaminate regular crops and our food supply. The expert body believes that India’s current regulatory system to assess the safety of GM crops is inadequate and raises questions about the ability to safely conduct field trials. The paper also raises concerns on conflict of interest within India’s GMO regulatory body.
Among the most significant recommendations were: the need for independent, long-term and inter-generational studies in the biosafety risk assessment; a need assessment of the GM crop technology; and a socioeconomic risk analysis before open releases are permitted.
The Philippines has never rejected approval of any GMO—even those GMOs which are banned in other countries due to health and safety concerns. Alarmingly, the government’s system of regulation and assessment of the safety of GMOs remains largely closed to the public. Since 2004 the Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), has approved 67 GMOs for importation as food, feed and processing. The most worrisome GMO approvals are for rice—the country’s staple food.
The group challenged the country’s GMO regulatory system. Last April, the environment group filed a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan and Writ of Continuing Mandamus against Bt eggplant field trials in the Philippines. The hearings for the Writ of Continuing Mandamus are currently ongoing.
“The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) should cancel all GMO approvals, including experimental field trials. It is a fact that the GMO regulatory system for in the Philippines is hopelessly flawed. With the growing opposition against GMO crops and the increasing body of scientific research that underlines the threats of GMOs, the government must wake up and create policies that look after the interests of the people. The DA has taken the first step Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, but this effort continues to be undermined by continued approvals of GMOs, as well as support of commercial research and field trials to propagate these harmful modified crops,” Ocampo concluded.