SC urged to consider science in GMO ruling
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – An organization at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna has urged the Supreme Court (SC) to consider more scientific evidence in tackling issues involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In a statement, the UPLB Genetics Society opposed an earlier ruling of the high court to stop the field testing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong, which was being developed to resist pests and reduce the use of pesticides.

“As an organization molding next generation scientists, we believe that we should not hinder the ability of our nation to harness modern technology in order to address the challenges of a growing population,” the organization said.

The same SC ruling, which was released in December, also nullified the existing Department of Agriculture administrative order which provides for the rules and regulations for the importation and release into the environment of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology.

The organization said the ruling created “a commotion in the agricultural industry” in the country as it put on hold existing research and use of GMOs pending the release of a new administrative order.

Other groups from the scientific community have opposed the SC ruling.

UPLB chancellor Fernando Sanchez said ruling would have dire consequences to Filipinos as it covered the administrative order.

He said the food and feed industries are heavily dependent on imported corn and soybean, most of which are genetically modified.

“All efforts to develop and commercialize any GMO will also have to temporarily cease,” added Sanchez.

“Thus, instead of producing our own crops and products, we will import important crops such as soybean, corn, cotton and livestock from other countries. Prices of importation will skyrocket and the possible disruption in the food chain may cause food security issues,” he said.

He warned that low-wage and even middle-income consumers will have to bear the burden of paying high prices for food, including crops that have been exposed to excessive pesticide spraying.

Sanchez said the decision to stop the field testing of Bt eggplant would rob farmers of the opportunity to use technology that would enable them to refrain from using pesticides harmful to the human body and the environment.

“The Bt eggplant is a safe, naturally insect-resistant variety that is intended to replace the chemical spray technology that our farmers currently use,” said the UPLB chancellor.

In December, the SC affirmed the appellate court’s decision to issue a writ of kalikasan prohibiting the field testing of Bt talong (eggplant).

The high court noted that scientists have no consensus on the safety of Bt talong, and stated that the Court of Appeals is correct when it applied the precautionary principle in issuing the writ.

ACIRC ATILDE COURT OF APPEALS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FERNANDO SANCHEZ GENETICS SOCIETY IN DECEMBER LOS BA SANCHEZ SUPREME COURT UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES
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