New policy on GMO sacrifices public safety for benefit of TNCs

March 16, 2016

By AGHAM

We in Agham – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People believe that the new policy regarding the use, handling and management of plant-based GMO products does not genuinely address the issue of public safety.

We are referring to the inter-agency memo on The Rules and Regulation for Research and Development, Handling and Use, Transboundary Movement, Release into the Environment, and Management of Genetically-Modified Plant and Plant Products Derived from the Use of Biotechnology. The Departments of Science and Technology, Agriculture, Health and Interior and Local Government crafted the new policy to replace the DA’s Administrative Order (AO) N0. 8s. 2002, recently nullified by the Supreme Court along with stopping the field trials of the GM Bt Talong in December 2015.

We are concerned that this latest inter-agency memo replicates AO 8 and its disregard for complete risk assessment of GMOs. The policy provides that GMO companies only need a technical dossier in seeking approval for application of GM products in our country. If we take a closer look at the provisions of the new policy, it is but a mere replication of the previous policy in the aspect of risk assessment. Instead of strengthening our own technical capacity to conduct risk assessments process, we rely on technical dossiers that are mostly prepared in foreign countries and may not include rigorous scientific inquiry done on the sites of GMO application in the Philippines.

We reiterate that we need safety nets when it comes to GMOs, considering reports of ill effects of GMOs not only to consumers but even to farmers exposed to them. We need to establish scientific certainty with respect to the safety and acceptability of GMOs to all stakeholders. We can only be assured if we locally conduct empirical studies to obtain accurate data and foresee the impacts of GMOs on the people and the environment.

This policy exposes the national government’s priorities, namely, sacrificing public safety in favor of transnational corporations (TNCs) invested in various GM applications throughout the country. The joint memo further protects TNCs by granting them the right to withhold business information even on the subject of biosafety decisions. This bodes ill for stakeholders and consumer safety advocates, as TNCs may use this provision to evade public scrutiny.

We do not need another policy that patronizes foreign interests. What we need is a national biotechnology agenda that will provide our local scientists with opportunities to develop GM products to answer the fundamental needs of food security and self-sufficiency. If the government is truly sincere in using biotechnology to address the people’s needs, then it must end its exploitative ties with agrochemical TNCs and start supporting agricultural modernization to strengthen our local economy.

Reference: Feny Cosico, Secretary-General, Agham – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, 02 998 4226 / agham.national@gmail.com