House probe on genetically modified crops proposed
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2014 - 2:04pm

MANILA, Philippines - A lady lawmaker has asked the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to look into the biosafety of genetically modified crops in the country.

In House Resolution 399, Rep. Sharon S. Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS-OWA) also sought an inquiry on the advantages and disadvantages of the commercialization of genetically modified crops.

Garin said research on the application of biotechnology on crop production started in the 1980s.  Under the resolution, biotechnology refers to any process that uses living organisms to make or modify products or to improve and develop plants, animals or microorganisms for a specific use.

Garin said several executive orders have been enacted and policy statement and administrative orders have been issued for the promotion of safe and responsible use of modern biotechnology, which has the potential to contribute to agricultural productivity and food security.

“Executive Order No. 430 was enacted in 1990 for the creation of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) with the task to regulate genetic engineering research and development activities and their products,” she explained.

Garin further said then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued a policy statement on modern biotechnology in 2001.  She again issued Executive Order No. 514 in 2006 to establish the National Biosafety Framework and prescribe guidelines for its implementation and reorganization of the NCBP.

Garin added that in 2002, the Department of Agriculture issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 8, Series of 2002 as implementing guidelines for the importation and release into the environment of Plants and Plant Products Derived from the Use of Modern Biotechnology.

“With regard to the importation and release of genetically modified plants, AO 8 mandates the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to regulate the conduct of risk assessment for the purpose of the eventual commercialization of genetically-modified crops,” Garin said.

She said at present, the NCBP and BPI-regulated experimentations and field testing are being conducted by State universities like the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, University of the Philippines—Mindanao and the Visayas State University, among others, as well as private research and development institutions.

Garin said non-government, environmental organizations and some local government units have continued to pose strong opposition to the field testing by State universities and private research and development institutions and to the eventual commercialization of genetically modified crops citing biosafety.

She said the Philippines has finally ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety of 2000 and being a signatory of the Protocol, the Philippines has committed itself to ensuring that the development, handling, transport, use, transfer ad release of genetically modified organisms are undertaken in a manner that prevents or reduces the risks to biological diversity and human health.

Garin said it is imperative for the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to conduct an investigation so that the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines, the Bureau of Plant Industry and other concerned government agencies could provide a factual assessment of the potency of biotechnology regulation in the country.

“These agencies should also disclose pertinent information and findings of experimentations, field testing, and research conducted to provide a credible and scientific grounding for the introduction of genetically-modified crops to the environment and its consumption,” Garin said.

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