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2-Plants: Archdiocese of Jaro (Philippines) checks entry of Bt corn

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TITLE:  Iloilo Church leaders check entry of Bt corn
SOURCE: Philippine Daily Inquirer, by Grace Albasin and Aquiles Zonio
DATE:   June 16, 2003

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Iloilo Church leaders check entry of Bt corn

ILOILO CITY-The social action center of the Archdiocese of Jaro has asked
farmers to report to their parish priests any attempt to grow genetically
modified corn or Bt corn. Fr. Meliton Oso of the Archdiocesan social action center
said in a news conference on June 10 that he asked farmers affiliated with
the sustainable agriculture program, to inform their priests if Bt corn seeds
were being distributed in corn growing areas. Oso said some farmers reported
that Monsanto corn seeds were seen in Sara town, 102 kilometers north of this
city, but they could not determine if they were hybrid or Bt corn. Sara and
San Dionisio towns are the biggest corn growing towns in Iloilo that has the
total corn area of 4,000 hectares. "What will we do if we know there are Bt
corn growing? We have to decide what to do with it. But in one area in
Mindanao, farmers have uprooted Bt corn as a sign of protest," said Oso.

The Archdiocese, which administers to the spiritual needs of more than two
million faithful, covers the city, Iloilo, Guimaras and the dioceses of
Bacolod, Kabankalan and San Carlos in Negros Occidental and San Jose in Antique.
The Jaro Archdiocese declared its rejection of GM crops, particularly Bt corn,
after the May 14 and 15 Peasant-Clergy Conference and a series of forum for
priests, religious, local officials and civic leaders.

The corn is named after the soil bacterium ("Bacillus thuringiensis"), which
was added to the genes of the corn to make it less vulnerable to Asiatic
corn borer. Bt corn was approved for commercialization in December 2002 by an
administrative order of the Department of Agriculture after field tests
conducted in Mindanao. The transgenic corn is now being sold by giant US seed
company Monsanto under the brand name YieldGard 818.

Advocates for sustainable agriculture, environmentalists and those opposed
to GM crops are asking for a moratorium on Bt corn and a review of the process
of its approval. They cited the Bt corn's potential risks to human health,
environment and the high cost of seeds. The Jaro Archdiocese was also behind
the move to convince officials to declare the city and province of Iloilo free
of Bt corn. In General Santos City, officials of Barangay San Isidro have
started lobbying for the lifting of the ban on Bt corn testing. The
petitioners, led by Barangay Captain Eduardo Yumang, claimed that farmers in other areas
were already using Bt corn seeds and that no adverse effects on the
environment and on the health of the people have so far been noted. In 2000, the city
council passed an ordinance banning the field experiments for Bt corn and
other GM crops in the city. Former mayor Adelbert Antonino even warned a
multi-national seed company about sanctions if it failed to seek the city
government's approval before conducting any field test.


 Hartmut Meyer       
 Kleine Wiese 6         
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