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)