Farmers reject new circular on GMOs; slams U.S. role in aggressive GMO imposition in PHL

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the RESIST Agrochem TNCs network (RESIST) today joined multisectoral groups in protesting the new Joint Department Circular issued by five goverment agencies that will serve as the new rules and regulations for the testing, propagation, commercialization, importation and use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) including GM crops, products and by-products.

"Farmers strongly oppose and reject the Joint Department Circular. We will defend our rights to safe and sufficient food, health and healthy environment at all times. We will continue to defend our rights to land, seeds and technology for the people," said KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano.

Mariano said the Joint Department Circular was rushed to acquiesce to the interests of traders and importers of GMO-based animal feeds with import permits expiring soon. Monsanto, a US-based multinational agrochem and agricultural biotechnology corporation also has biosafety permits expiring next month.

"The Joint department Circular was drafted and finalized within a month's time without thorough consideration to varied legitimate issues including the safety of GMOs to people's health and the environment," said Mariano as he encouraged the public, especially consumers, to take part in scrutinizing the new circular that will impact the further influx of GMO crops and products into the local market.

"For more than a decade, farmers and local producers are staunchly resisting the testing, propagation and commercialization of GMO seeds and crops because it continues to destroy indigenous and sustainable farming practices, contaminates non-GMO crops and makes farmers heavily-dependent on chemical-based pesticides, herbicides developep and marketed by agrochem TNCs," said Mariano who cited the experience of Bt corn farmers who were duped by Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont into farming GM corn varieties.

Mariano said foreign agrochem companies have everything to gain from the Joint Department Circular that was authorized by Aquino government while farmers remain at the losing end of this disastrous deal lobbied by pro-GM sectors and agrochem companies.

"Only those who stand to benefit from this new Joint Department Circular are profit-oriented multinational and transnational agrochemical companies promoting GE and GM products and technologies, traders and exporters of GM crops and by-products, in particular U.S.-based exporters of soybean, soybean meal, feeds and fodders, coarse grains, cotton, vegetable oil and other GM products, an industry that is worth almost US$800 million."

US role in GMO promotion in PHL
The peasant leader also highlighted the United States' role in the aggressive promotion of GMO in the country.

A 2015 USDA Agricultural Service report revealed that new confined field trials are being planned for Golden Rice; multi-location field trials for Bt cotton were targeted in Luzon and Mindanao; the first field testing of GM papaya was accomplished, with more field tests underway and GM imports, mainly from the US grew by 2% or $767-million in 2014 alone. 

From 2015 to 2017, Monsanto, that currently controls 30% of the market for BT corn in the country, will introduce 4 new varieties of Bt corn in Luzon and Mindanao and plans to engage more farmers to cultivate Bt corn in key production areas. At present, there are 415,000 smallholder farmers cultivating more than 800,000 hectares of BT corn in Central Luzon, Isabela, Cotabato, Bukidnon, and Visayas.

"The new Joint Department Circular will in fact, further solidify the Philippines’ position as a ‘biotechnology leader and model for Genetic Engineering (GE) regulatory policy in the region.’  During last year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology, it was clearly raised by economies in attendance that the delays in the commercialization of GM research in the Philippines may impact the country’s ‘agricultural competitiveness’ particularly in the light of trade liberalization initiatives such as the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), further stressing our argument that the new circular will only support, strengthen and intensify the importation of GM crops and by-products," Mariano revealed.

The Joint Department Circular No. 1 Series of 2016 by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Health was crafted to replace DA Administrative Order No. 8 that was earlier nullified by the Supreme Court.

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