AFTER a court banned the field trials for the genetically modified eggplants in the country, environmental advocates are now calling the Department of Agriculture (DA) to halt the production and commercialization of the genetically modified crop “Golden Rice”.
The golden rice is a new type of rice that contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. It is a variety of Oryza sativa rice that is being developed through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene as a potential new food-based approach to improve vitamin A – which has been a serious health problem globally.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 250 million children suffer from vitamin deficiency. It also said that around 250,000 to 500,000 children go blind every year due to malnutrition with half of them dying within a year after being blind.
Reports said the golden rice is now undergoing multi-location field trials in different sites in Luzon. It needs to pass several tests before it will be commercialized. However, a lot of people are not convinced on genetically modified crop.
Go Organic Mindanao (GOM) coordinator of the Social Action Center Diocese (SACD) of Marbel, Fr. Joy B. Pelino, in a media briefing on Anti Go Mindanao Organic (GMO) Rice at Hue Cafe – Ateneo Business Center on Tuesday, said there is no proof that the golden rice is really good for the health.
“There’s no sufficient data in terms of its safety. In fact, independent studies revealed that there are possible negative effects from the rice on human health. This will also contaminate the natural diversity of island’s native rice varieties,” Pelino said.
Mamamayang Ayaw sa Aerial Spray president and Go Organic Davao City (GoDC) member Dagohoy Magaway also said that if the golden rice will be introduced into the markets, there is a significant risk of the genetically modified gene crossing over to the indigenous varieties, destroying the purity of the organic rice farms.
Diego dela Cruz Jr. from the Masipag Mindanao said aside from the risk of the genetically modified crop, the farmers will also face problem on companies of the modified crop taking control of agriculture at the expense of poor farmers.
Sr. Nelda L. Balaba, of the SAC-Marbel, added that they believe that there are other ways to resolve the issue on vitamin A deficiency. She added that there are a lot of organically farmed vegetables that naturally contain beta-carotene.
“Marami pa namang pagkain that contains vitamin A. Hindi naman necessary ang golden rice just to solve the issue on vitamin A deficiency. So our position is to stop the field testing, production and commercialization of the rice,” Balaba said.
The groups claimed that eating genetically modified organic product could cause new allergies in people.
The fact that the crop has not been tested on human, Geonathan Barro, advocacy officer for Masipag Mindanao, added.
At least 50 varieties of the native Philippine rice are grown throughout Mindanao, using indigenous organic farming techniques. These are often marketed as heirloom rice and command high prices in organic markets.
In line with the celebration of the Earth Day, the environmental advocates also called on the Mindanawons to reject genetically modified crops like Golden Rice.
They are also asking the DA to support organic farming, instead, as provided for by the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.
“If we consumers will all stand up and reject pesticide-intensive and GMOs’ dependent agriculture in favor of organic farming, we could put our island, and our country-on the path to a sustainable future and ensure a healthier future for everyone,” Pelino said.
The advocates also urged the DA to uphold the integrity of Republic Act 10068, or The Philippine Organic Agriculture Act, which seeks to develop and protect the organic agriculture nationwide by stopping the entry of genetically modified organisms into Philippine agriculture.
Third World Network associate and GOM member Atty. Lee Aruelo said that similar actions have been initiated across the country. He added that this is to show to government that there is a significant opposition to the GMOs and Golden Rice.
“In the interest of our farmers and food security, genetically modified organics should be banned from being introduced into our country’s farmlands,” Aruelo said. ( Ivy Tejano, SUNSTAR DAVAO)