Filipino consumers, scientists, health experts express opposition to DA’s GM Yellow Rice
A brief recap of Sari-Sari Day 1
Last November 29, the Stop Golden Rice! Network – Philippines held “Pangako, Panganib: Pagpapalalim ng Implikasyon ng Golden Rice sa Kalikasan, Kalusugan at Konsyumer,” the first webinar in a series entitled “Sari-Sari: Consumers Against GM Yellow Rice”. The series aims to create spaces for discussion on Golden Rice, or GM Yellow Rice, and GMOs, enable different stakeholders to be included in the discourse and encourage consumers to take action. The activity was facilitated by Mabi David from Good Food Community and Cid Manalo from Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE).
Dr. Charito Medina, an environmental biologist and member-scientist from Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), discussed about the contamination risks of Golden Rice or GM Yellow Rice. “Genetic engineering is inherently a contamination of the genetic integrity of a species.” Dr. Medina said. He mentioned genetic engineering is not exact and may result in unexpected and possibly harmful outcomes. Moreover, he stressed that biodiversity contamination negatively affecting soil, insects, microorganisms, among others may occur through Horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Local varieties of rice may also be contaminated when seeds mix during storage, transport, cropping, and labeling, or through cross-pollination and illegal pollination. All these constitute a grave threat to our farms and health given the lack of proof of its safety. “How can we protect our constitutional right to health and balance ecology without any law on liability and redress?” He asked citing the lack of laws on “liability and redress” in the country regarding GMO contamination and health impacts. He ended by stating there is no need for Golden Rice and that the government should instead focus on locally available alternatives in resolving Vitamin A deficiency in the country.
Dr. Edelina de la Paz, a community medicine expert, chairperson of Health Alliance for Democracy, and national coordinator of People’s Health Movement Philippines discussed the implications of GM Yellow Rice to Public Health. “It is unnecessary,” she said citing GM Yellow Rice’s impracticality, negligible beta-carotene content, and incompetency with regard to natural alternatives. “Hindi niya sinasagot ang totoong problema. Vitamin A deficiency is not an isolated issue: it is a symptom of hunger and malnutrition, which are caused by poverty and inequality. These are deep-rooted and complex socio-economic problems.” she added.
“Corporations are taking over. They want to transfer the control of seeds from farmers to corporations,” she said in her discussion of the political, economic, and cultural impacts of GM Yellow Rice. Furthermore, she exposed the corporate entities and philanthrocapitalists behind the technology whose primary interest is profit accumulation, not food security and malnutrition reduction. She said that if these entities and the government want to address Vitamin A deficiency, they should listen to small farmers and push for farmer-centered food and agricultural systems.
Dr. Susana Balingit, a medical doctor and advocate of local healing diets, said “sinasabi natin na ang bayan natin ang isa sa pinakamayaman na bansa in terms of natural resources but having said that, we allowed colonial masters to teach us what to eat.” She mentioned that in the past, Filipinos were strong, resilient, and have the ability to easily walk miles and do intensive labor in their communities because of their local diets. “‘Di natin kailangan ang Golden Rice. Let us rediscover how strong we were then and use them.” she added.
After the discussions, reactors from the sectors of urban poor, youth, and farmers took the floor and delivered their reflections and questions. First, Ka Mimi Doringo from Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) said that there were not many nutritious food choices for the poor because of economic restraints and unavailability of local vegetables in their markets and communities. She also mentioned how during the pandemic, only canned goods and noodles were given to them as aid. She then stated the importance of organic farming, promoting and fighting for farmers’ rights to land and seed, and a proactive and pro-people government.
Angeli Lacson, a student from the University of the Philippines Diliman, said it is integral for students to know about the issue as it also involves them. In particular, she agreed that issues surrounding food and those faced by farmers such as landlessness and violence are issues we should all collectively recognize and act upon. She applauded farmers and indigenous peoples who, for the longest time, have been at the forefront of resisting agrochemical transnational corporations forcibly introducing false solutions. She ended by highlighting the need to organize and fight collectively.
Jose Paolo Echavez, a student from Siliman University and Director for Visayas of the Agriculture Students Association of the Philippines, said that the government clearly has misplaced priorities when it comes to the implementation of medical solutions. He said that the government should focus more on handling the COVID-19 pandemic than the GM Yellow Rice. He ended by stating calls to action to students to continue being open to critical conversations, to scientists to demand and create more sciences that serve the welfare of our citizenry, and to the general public to continue to demand good governance.
Eduardo Edullantes, a farmer-breeder and president of Filipino Farmers Seed Network in President Roxas, Cotabato, raised concerns on the possible negative effects of GM intrusion in farms to farmer-led breeding practices and their rights to seed collection and management. Given the lack of liability and redress, he worries about the lack of accountability measures once the contamination occurs.
Evan Velgado, a farmer-breeder and president of Lumang Ilog Farmers Association in Baras, Rizal, said that once the GM Yellow Rice will threaten farmer-developed integrated farming systems. He asked if GM Yellow Rice continues to be pushed, “may magbabago ba? Ang pinapasan ba naming mga suliranin ay gagaan?” He then urged the public
The activity ended with a closing message by Alfie Pulumbarit, the Stop Golden Rice Network convenor.###
Watch the webinar here: https://www.facebook.com/SGRNAsia/videos/469376477882443
Petition to revoke the biosafety permit for the commercial propagation of Golden Rice: https://www.change.org/p/stop-golden-rice/u/29416306…
For inquiries please contact:
Alfie Pulumbarit, SGRN Philippines lead convenor
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
For more information, kindly visit https://www.facebook.com/SGRNAsia