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2-Plants: Filipino groups fight over Bt corn

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Farmers urge Congress to rush anti-Bt corn bills
SOURCE: The Daily Inquirer, The Philippines, by Gerald G. Lacuarta
DATE:   May 19, 2003

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Farmers urge Congress to rush anti-Bt corn bills

MILITANT farmers on Sunday called on Congress to enact bills that would
prevent the entry of genetically engineered crops like Bt corn into the
country. Rafael Mariano, chair of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas,
appealed to the members of the House to "immediately sit down, tackle and
pass" three measures that are pending in the chamber, which would halt
the commercialization-planting and sale-of Bt corn in the country.
"Instead of tackling anti-people issues like Charter change that would
only intensify agrarian unrest in the countryside, Congress should pass
immediately House Bill 3381 and discuss House Resolutions 238 and 922,"
Mariano said. HB 3381, authored by Bayan Muna party-list representatives,
seeks to suspend the entry, field-testing and propagation of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) pending a thorough evaluation of their safety
and compliance with health and environment standards. HR 238, also filed
by Bayan Muna, seeks to probe the role of the National Committee on
Biosafety of the Philippines in the field-testing of Bt corn. HR 922
seeks to investigate the Bureau of Plant Industry for approving the
commercial propagation of Bt corn under the Yieldgard label of Monsanto
Corp. of the United States. "While deliberations in Congress are ongoing,
the distribution of Bt corn must be stopped," Mariano said.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Agri sector braces for biotech debate
SOURCE: The Philippine Star, by
DATE:   May 18, 2003

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Agri sector braces for biotech debate
(Conclusion) Scientists versus NGOs

The local debate on biotechnology and Bt corn arrayed the country's
leading bio-scientists against Greenpeace and other advocacy groups.

Among the local groups of scientists who support the adoption of biotech
crops and who attest to the studies on the safety of these products are
the various units of the University of the Philippines, the National
Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, the Institute of Plant
Breeding and the Natural Science Research Institute.

They are backed by the Crop Science Society of the Philippines, the
Biochemical Society of the Philippines, the Philippine Association for
the Advancement of Science and Technology and the Pest Management Council
of the Philippines.

The anti-biotech advocates, on the other hand, are led by groups like the
South Cotabato Movement Against Genetically Modified Organisms and Ag-
mais. Among their supporters is sectoral representative Loretta Ann
Rosales. Nine anti-biotech advocates recently staged a hunger strike in
front of the Department of Agriculture building to pressure government to
stop farmers from using Bt corn. Church division The local Catholic
Church also appears divided on the issue. Influential Sorsogon bishop
Diosdado Varela leads a sector of the church which has kept an open mind
on biotechnology and supports the Vatican position that the technology is
an answer to the global problem of hunger. Outspoken Manila Auxiliary
Bishop Teodoro Bacani and renowned Jesuit Theologian Joaquin Bernas echo
the same position.

Several nuns and parish priests, however, have joined the anti-biotech
group. Most of the anti-biotech clergy hail from Northern Luzon and
Mindanao. They have adopted the points raised by NGOs opposed to

Anti-biotech groups have warned the government that it has launched a
signature campaign to pressure the President to stop farmers from
planting the high-yielding variety. Susan Bolanio, a nun from the Diocese
of Marbel, said she is confident that some 100,000 signatures can be
gathered in the campaign. Farmers' dilemma Caught in the fray are the
country's corn farmers who are faced with dwindling farm productivity and
mounting chemical insecticide costs.

Several large corn farmer organizations have pleaded to Agriculture
Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. to junk any move to stop the planting of the
crop variety.

Edwin Paraluman, representative of the Agriculture and Fishery Council of
General Santos City decried the alleged ignorance of the plight of
farmers on the part of anti-biotech activists. He said the technology
could help farm yield and therefore "Filipino farmers must not be
deprived of it."

Pro-Bt corn farmer groups include the Philippine Maize Federation, the
largest association of corn farmers in the country.

Greenpeace, however, has vowed to stop the effort by Filipino corn
farmers. Local Greenpeace campaigners have urged Lorenzo to stop farmers
from planting Bt corn, warning that the issue could be raised in the
secretary's confirmation hearings before the Commission on Appointments.