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2-Plants: Philippine Bt corn protestors end their hunger strike



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Hunger strikers end protest vs Bt corn on Wednesday
SOURCE: Daily Inquirer, The Philippines, by Gerald G. Lacuarta
        http://www.inq7.net/brk/2003/may/21/brkpol_2-1.htm
DATE:   May 21, 2003

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Hunger strikers end protest vs Bt corn on Wednesday

THE LAST of the hunger strikers protesting the commercial propagation of
the genetically engineered Bt corn will lift their 30-day fast Wednesday
even as they warned the Department of Agriculture of future "liabilities"
as farmers are already starting to plant the controversial pest-resistant
crop.

With the two officials -- President Macapagal Arroyo and Agriculture
Secretary Luis Lorenzo -- authorized to order a stop to the sale and
planting of the Bt corn out of the country, hunger strike leader Roberto
Verzola said a moratorium was now out of the question.

In any case, more than just a moratorium would be needed, he said.

"There is now liability involved because the poison is now being spread,"
said Verzola, one of the four hunger protesters remaining of the original
nine that set out to dramatize their opposition to Bt corn outside the DA
compound on April 22.

Verzola said the government could have stopped the spread of the Bt corn
at its source while the scientific community was still debating the issue
of genetically engineered crops.

But now the DA will have to go to the rural areas to uproot the Bt corn
plants should the protesters be proven right, he said.

Still looking weak from weeks of refusing food, Verzola said he was ready
to continue the hunger strike, but that he and the other protesters
"don't want to make unnecessary sacrifices."

"We have nothing to be ashamed of. We can hold our heads up high," he said.


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Protesters end hunger strike vs 'Bt' corn
SOURCE: ABS-CBN News/Today, The Philippines, by Rhodina J. Villanueva
        http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/abs_news_body.asp?section=
        Provincial&oid=23654
DATE:   May 21, 2003

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Protesters end hunger strike vs 'Bt' corn

Farmers and members of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) on hunger
strike to protest the commercialization of Bacilus thuringiensis, or Bt,
corn in the country called it quits Wednesday.

In a fitting conclusion of their 30th day of protest, which started on
April 22, the protesters staged their final one-day "Indignation Fast"
against the Arroyo government and the agrochemical company Monsanto.
Monsanto has introduced locally the commercial propagation of a variety
of Bt corn called "Yieldgard."

Luisita Esmao of the Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka and Roberto
Verzola, secretary-general of the Philippine Greens, led the hunger
strikers, who pitched camp in front of the Department of Agriculture
building in Quezon City.

"We lifted our fast and took a sip of organic corn today [May 21] on our
30th day of hunger strike. We call on all our supporters throughout the
country to continuously be one with us," Verzola said.

Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. had earlier rejected the hunger
stikers' call for a moratorium of the commercial propagation of the Bt
corn. The protesting farmers and NGO members said they would now channel
their energies and efforts to other productive undertakings like
intensified campaign on the issue.

Reports said that Monsanto, the commercial propagator of a variety of Bt
corn called "Yieldgard," had been quietly distributing Bt corn seeds to
corn-plantation owners who have started planting them. With this
development in mind, Verzola said, "We have, therefore, decided to end
our fast so that we can join the efforts to control Bt corn
contamination, and to stop further genetic contamination by other
genetically modified crops."

Further, the group said, "We dedicate our 30 days of sacrifice to all
farmers in the country. Every night, many farmers and their families go
to bed hungry. Hunger is terrible. To keep hungry those who produce food
for all is the height of injustice."

In his letter to Verzola rejecting a moratorium, Lorenzo said, "Unless
new scientific evidence is received through the correct and due process,
I consider myself estopped from further acting on your request for a
moratorium."

The Philippines has been importing genetically modified products since
the 1990s. NGOs such as Greenpeace have claimed that once released into
the environment, damage caused by these products such as Bt corn would be
irreversible.