DAVAO CITY—Euphoric over the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling against the field testing of genetically modified Bt eggplants, organic farming advocates are calling for a ban on a genetically modified breed of rice known as Golden Rice.
Golden Rice contains beta carotene as a source of Vitamin A and is being developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Alfie Pulumbarit, advocacy officer of the nongovernment Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag) based in Los Baños, Laguna, said the IRRI is “done testing the Golden Rice in five sites and is moving on to the efficacy tests, meaning on humans, but without testing it first on animals or conducting toxicity tests to make sure it’s safe.”
“Is there really a need for alternate sources of Vitamin A other than what nature provided us?” said Ann Fuertes, executive director of the Interface for Development Intervention.
Proponents touted the Golden Rice as the “answer” to Vitamin A deficiency among children but Fuertes said a steady consumption of fresh vegetables is effective as well.
“A daily diet of green and yellow vegetables and fruits, including sweet potato, is enough to ensure that our bodies get the right amount of Vitamin A,” she said.
The Philippine National Nutrition Council reported that the number of children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency has declined from 38 percent in 1998 to only 15.2 percent in 2008, Masipag said.
Organic farming advocates expressed concern that Golden Rice may just be a “Trojan horse,” paving the way for the entry of other genetically modified crops in the country.
Dr. Chito Medina, Masipag national coordinator, said the absence of sufficient tests should be a grave concern.
Fuertes said the country should adopt a national policy to prevent the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“Now that the government has the National Organic Agriculture Act, it makes sense to have a more encompassing national policy to ban GMOs nationwide,” Fuertes said.
“The principles of organic farming and genetically modified organisms are incompatible,” Fuertes added.
“Many countries have in fact already declared a moratorium on GMOs. It’s about time that the Philippines follows suit,” she said.
The Inquirer on Monday tried to seek comment from Dr. Desiree Hautea, one of the lead scientist-proponents of Bt eggplants, but she was unavailable for an interview.
Aside from Bt eggplants, Masipag also opposes the testing of other genetically modified crops, such as corn, abaca, cassava and papaya, which are separately being conducted by government and private agencies. (Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon)