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Activists say ‘No’ to GMO eggplant

Text, photos and video by VINCENT GO

GENETICALLY modified organism walked the streets of Malate yesterday to dramatize the dangers of GMOs in food and the ecology, as environmentalists asked the Supreme Court to stop field trials of genetically modified talong (eggplant).

The parade of GMOs—activists dressed as GMO plants—took place after the Greenpeace press conference where it announced the filing at the Supreme Court of a petition for writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus against GMO field trials.

The petitions seek a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) as a first step to stopping the multi-location field trials of the bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant which is genetically altered with a gene from the Bt bacteria allowing it to produce its own pesticide.

Bt talong and other GMO crops are dangerous to human health, and the environment, Greenpeace said. Scientific tests on laboratory animals fed GMO food such as Bt eggplant have shown that GMOs negatively affect their liver, kidneys and blood. GMOs, which are man-made living organisms, can crossbreed and reproduce, causing gene transfer to natural and wild plant varieties.

The petitions also question the flawed government regulatory process for approving GMOs. “The government’s GMO approval system is hopelessly flawed and biased towards the release and propagation of GMOs in the country,” said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace and one of the signatories to the petition.

“The government’s pro-GMO approach is unfortunately resulting in a massive and uncontrolled unleashing of GMOs into our diets and our environment. This, despite the absence of conclusive scientific proof that these monster crops are safe to public health and the environment,” he added.

The petitioners include former Senator Orlando Mercado, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, Rep. Teodoro Casiño, Dr. Charito Medina of the scientists and farmers group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pagpapaunlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), lawyers Harry Roque and Maria Paz Luna, scientists Dr. Ben Malayang III of Silliman University and Dr. Romeo Quijano of University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, Catherine Untalan of Miss Earth Foundation, Leo Avila, representing the City Government of Davao, and activist-musician Noel Cabangon.

Avila cited the uprooting of Bt eggplants in Davao City upon orders of the mayor. The Bt eggplants were planted by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) without consultation and following protocols in field trials of GMO crops, he said.

Since the DA’s Administrative Order No. 08  was passed in 2002, the BPI has been approving GMOs for importation as food, feed and processing, as well as for propagation. Not one GMO application for commercial release has been disapproved or rejected, despite the absence of conclusive proof that such open releases are safe for the environment and human health.

Named respondents in the petition are the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority of the DA, UP Los Baños Foundation Inc., UP Mindanao Foundation Inc., and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications-Southeast Asia Center.

Activists vs GMO eggplant