Ban on GM rice pushed

May 28th, 2013 by

IN THE wake of the Court of Appeal’s (CA) landmark decision to outlaw the field trials of the genetically modified Bt eggplant, members of the Go Organic Davao City (GoDC), a Davao-based network of organic farming practitioners and advocates, are now training their sights on their next target: the genetically modified golden rice.

“While we are happy with the CA decision, this does not mean the end of the public vigilance against genetically modified vegetables since there are other GM crops which are being prepared for widespread market release,” GoDC member Ling Castro said.

Castro is referring to the golden rice, which the farmer-scientist group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag identified as a GMO crop that has been “artificially inserted” with genes coming from bacteria and corn to produce beta carotene, a key component in the formation of Vitamin A.

Proponents of the golden rice have been saying that this variety is the answer to the problem of Vitamin A deficiency among Filipino children, emphasizing that the technology is harmless and free for the Philippine market.

But organic farming advocates are concerned that this may be just a “Trojan horse” to entice the general public to support the entry of other genetically modified crops in the country.

“The issue here is whether there is really a need for alternate sources of Vitamin A other than what Nature provided for us,” said Idis executive director Ann Fuertes.

Fuertes said a steady consumption of fresh vegetables can meet the average daily requirements for Vitamin A among Filipinos.

“A daily diet of green and yellow vegetables and fruits, including kamote, is enough to ensure that our bodies get the right amount of Vitamin A,” she said.

Masipag cited available data from the Philippine National Nutrition Council that cases of children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency have already declined from 38 percent in 1998 to only 15.2 percent cases in 2008. This downward trend is also reflected among pregnant women (9.5 percent) and lactating mothers (6.4 percent).

Masipag national coordinator Dr. Chito Medina said the absence of sufficient feeding tests to rule out any danger from consumption of golden rice should be a grave concern for everyone.

“No safety test was done to first establish its potential for allergencity, toxicity or even, the anti-nutritive properties of too much beta carotene consumption,” Medina pointed out.

Fuertes called for the passage of a national policy to prevent the spread of GMOs in the country.

“Now that the government has the National Organic Agriculture Act, it makes sense for a more encompassing national policy to ban GMOs nationwide since the principles of organic farming and genetically modified organisms are incompatible,” she said. (SUNSTAR DAVAO)

Davao reefs in ‘dismal state’

May 27th, 2013 by

DAVAO CITY — Silt coming from the deforested upland slopes along Davao’s watershed areas is putting the coastal biodiversity in peril, according to a watershed profile study commissioned by the Interface Development Interventions (Idis).

In a statement emailed to Sun.Star Davao, Idis said siltation, previous blast fishing, and wave action have been identified as the reasons why the reefs of the seven coastal barangays belonging to the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watershed system are in a “dismal state.”

“Based on the documents we have reviewed for this study, the coastal resources of these communities, particularly in five of them, is in poor condition,” said Philippine Eagle Foundation (Pefi) Conservation Director Jayson Ybanez, who presented the study at the Ateneo de Davao University last month.

The communities identified were Bago Aplaya, Binugao, Daliao, Lizada, and Sirawan in Toril District.

Idis commissioned Pefi, led by Ybanez as the lead researcher, to conduct the Resource and Socio-Economic Profile for the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watersheds.

Funding for this study was made possible through a grant from the United States Agency for International Aid (USAid) under the Foundation for the Philippine Environment’s Upscaling Forest Reforestation Efforts in Key Biodiversity Areas Project.

Other than the coral reefs, Ybanez also said that the area’s mangrove habitats, which used to be dense, are also disappearing.

“The earliest data we have is from 1956, when there used to be 154 hectares of mangrove forests. In 2001, this was reduced to 51 hectares,” he said.

The threats to these habitats are alarming since it leads to loss of species diversity.

Ybanez’s research team has already documented at least two threatened species of mangrove trees.

“These two are locally known as Tiduk-tidukan and Piapi,” Ybanez said.

The survey team was also able to document the existence of five species of pawikan, which are now classified as “threatened species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

These are the Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Green Sea turtles.

Idis Executive Director Ann Fuertes said that this situation underscores how extensive the impact of the watersheds is for Dabawenyos.

“Because watersheds catch the rain and send it out to the sea together with the accumulated soil, pesticides, garbage and other pollutants, they are good focal points for sustainably managing our city’s coastal resources,” she said.

“What we are seeing now is that there is a direct causal linkage between the threats to the upland and marine environments. If there is deforestation in our watersheds, the silt will come down and destroy the corals and mangroves on which our fisheries depend on.

Toxic pesticides in the run-off will kill the marine biodiversity which is present in our waters, she added.

“Given this scenario, it is imperative to address these linkages and the root causes in a sustainable and comprehensive manner at the socio-economic and policy level so that we can protect and restore what is left of these ecosystems,” Fuertes said. (Arianne Caryl N. Casas- SunStar Davao/Sunnex)