MANILA, Philippines - Over a hundred mothers staged a protest rally in Quezon City on Wednesday to show their opposition to the genetically-modified rice variety called Golden Rice (GR).
In line with the World Environment Day, members of "Green Moms" took to the streets in protest of the promotion of GR which proponents claim contain pro-Beta carotene. Green Moms is a nationwide coalition of mothers advocating for organic food and breastfeeding practices.
The GR is being presented to the public as a quick fix solution to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), the group said.
"Knowing that this Golden Rice, which has yet to undergo safety tests in the Philippines, and may be approved for commercialization here in the Philippines provokes fear among mothers," Velvet Escario-Roxas, a Green Moms convenor, said.
"For moms like us, the best source of nutrients for our children is that what comes naturally, like breast milk. I would not want my child, or any child for that matter, to be exposed to the risks of consuming genetically modified foods, like Golden Rice," Roxas added.
The group cited that Philippine study on nutrition reveals that VAD prevalence in the country has already decreased to less than 5 percent due to successful government program interventions such as Vitamin A capsule supplementation and micronutrient fortification.
Another convenor of the group, Prof. Tess Ramos Perez said that Vitamin A, like other nutrients, come from a diversified diet.
"The country has an abundance of Vitamin A sources like squash, camote, yellow corn, and a variety of other green and leafy indigenous fruits and vegetables. Instead of allowing genetically modified foods into our market, the government must reinforce programs that will promote breastfeeding and organic gardening among families and individuals," Ramos said.
Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Sustainable Agriculture and Genetic Engineering campaigner, said the Philippines is one country that GR proponents are looking to release the product commercially.
"Despite effective, less-costly and proven human and environmentally safe solutions to Vitamin A deficiency, the Philippines still remains to be one of the first countries where Golden Rice is being developed and targeted for commercial release," Ocampo said.
He also insisted that the recent Court of Appeals ruling to stop GMO field trials, particularly of Bt eggplant, should be upheld strictly by all government agencies and institutions involved in developing GMOs such as the Golden Rice.
"Clearly, as ruled by CA, releasing GMOs into the environment and its long-lasting consequences violates our rights to safe food, environment and health," he added.