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2-Plants: News on Bt corn struggle on the Philippines



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

TITLE:  R.P. scientists back GMO promotion
SOURCE: Today/abs-cbnNews
        http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/abs_news_body.asp?section=Provincial&
        oid=24024
DATE:   May 26, 2003

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R.P. scientists back GMO promotion

Around 20 Filipino scientists from government and private sectors Monday
trooped to the Department of Agriculture and expressed support to its
position to promote and commercialize genetically modified (GM) crops,
including the controversial Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn in the country.

The scientists said they believe and support the application of modern
biotechnology as a tool to enhance agricultural productivity.

The scientists' expression of support came after anti-GM advocates lifted
their almost one-month hunger strike in front of the Department of
Agriculture building in Quezon City to dramatize their opposition to the
government's giving a green light to the commercialization of Bt corn in
the country, and demanded a moratorium.

Among the scientists who articulated their support were former science
secretary Dr. William Padolina; Dr. Patricio Faylon, executive director
of the Philippine Council for Agriculture Forestry and Natural Resources
and Development of the Department of Science and Technology; and Dr. Mae
Mendoza of the University of the Philippines Los Baņos (UPLB) Institute
of Plant Breeding.

Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. told the scientists that the
termination of the hunger strike last week might have signaled a
realization by the protesters that the biotechnology issue involves a
process and that protest actions will not provide answers to their complaints.

"I think they [the hunger strikers] realized that they should respect the
process and having a hunger strike is not the solution. If they do have
scientific evidence, they should give it to the Bureau of Plant Industry
and from there, let the independent body of scientists, who will be
chosen at random, determine if there is merit for whatever they are
requesting," Lorenzo said in an interview.

"After that [study] let there be a decision on what position, and with
enough people being sought for consultation, we can follow the
recommendation," he said.

Lorenzo thanked the farmers and concerned nongovernment organizations for
ending their political action in front of the department's building in
Quezon City.

"What we need is to continuously inform the public what this Bt corn is
all about, the advantages and even the risks," he said, adding that the
technology is old because it has long been adopted in the US.

Dr. Rey Ebora, professor of biotechnology at UPLB, noted that products of
modern biotechnology promise to reduce farmers' high-input costs,
increase their yields, while keeping the ecosystem intact and enable
crops to grow under normally unfavorable conditions.

"Modern biotechnology can be a useful tool to attain greater nutritional
security, through enhanced product's vitamin content and prolonged shelf
life. Modern biotechnology can also produce healthier oils and develop
vaccines to fight dreadful diseases like cholera and malaria," he explained.

"Modern biotechnology has tremendous potential and offers remarkable
innovations to support our country's efforts to attain food security and
global competitiveness. Its benefits to developing countries in the areas
of food and agriculture, health and medicine, environmental protection,
trade and industry, are expected to be more than those benefits gained by
developed countries where food and feed overproduction exists," the
National Academy of Science and Technology unity statement (NAST) read.

The scientists recognized that no technology is without risk. "However,
we have great confidence in the National Committee on Biosafety of the
Philippines -- the interdepartment agency tasked to regulate research and
development in modern biotechnologies," NAST added.

Roberto Verzola, a hunger striker and secretary-general of the Philippine
Greens, said they have decided to end their fast so that they can join
the efforts to control Bt corn contamination and to stop genetic
contamination by other genetically modified crops.

Reports reaching the hunger strikers said Monsanto Inc. has been quietly
distributing the Bt corn seeds to corn plantation owners who have started
planting them.

Verzola's group said that with this development, to stop the subsequent
irreversible contamination of the local corn varieties will now take more
than a hunger strike and moratorium on seed distribution.


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

TITLE:  Govt urged to formulate sanction vs harmful use of 'Bt' corn
SOURCE: Today/abs-cbnNews, by R. Sarmiento
        http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/abs_news_body.asp?section=Provincial&
        oid=23974
DATE:   May 26, 2003

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Govt urged to formulate sanction vs harmful use of 'Bt' corn

KORONADAL CITY - A Catholic Church-backed umbrella organization here
opposing the propagation and commercialization of the controversial
Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) corn urged the Arroyo government to formulate
penalty mechanisms in case something goes wrong with the use of
transgenic corn.

"It is important to know precisely who is going to be [held] legally
liable to pay for any [possible] damages whether the harm is to the human
health, the environment, or both," said Eliezer Billanes, chairman of the
South Cotabato Movement Against Genetically Modified Organisms.

"Will it be the company which sells the seeds or the farmer who grows it?
What government agencies will be responsible [in case something goes
wrong with the Bt corn]?" he added.

Joining Billanes in the move were Maxima Nimfa Lebaquin, coordinator of
the Social Action Center of the Saint Anthony Parish under the Diocese of
Marbel; Benjie Nequinto, advocacy officer of the diocesan Justice and
Peace Desk; Antonio Jaco, of the South Cotabato Farmers Association; and
Crisanto Sinco, of Bayan Muna, among others.

They said that the country, particularly in South Cotabato province, does
not need the Bt corn variety, claiming that the benefits of the
transgenic corn "seems to be limited to those who owned the technology
and the people who farm on an industrialized scale."

"We are constantly told that this technology may have large benefits for
the future. Well, perhaps but we have all heard claims like that before
and they don't always come true in the long run," they said in a
statement furnished to Today.

As this developed, the Bt corn critics claimed that a handful independent
testing has been done on the effect of Bt corn on animals, and that the
results show "high side effects."

They cited a study by 18 Filipino scientists and physicians, headed by
Dr. Nelia Cortes Maramba of the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department of
the University of the Philippines, who came out with a position paper
against Bt corn, which said that it will spread the antibiotic-resistant
genes that would "render life-saving antibiotic[s] ineffective."

Moreover, around 580 scientists worldwide have urged the Arroyo
government to stop the propagation of the Bt corn developed by Monsanto
Co., saying that the Bt toxin accumulates and persists in the soil with
potential impacts on soil ecology and fertility.

Billanes said that GMO crops are not the only way to solve the national
and global problem of hunger to feed the world's growing population.

"Representatives of 20 African states, including Ethiopia, have published
a statement denying that gene technologies will help farmers produce the
food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, they think it
will destroy the agricultural system and biodiversity," he said.

Billanes added that there are many studies that say that genetically
altered crops will not give better yield compared to organic farming.

Citing the experience of American Corn Growers Association, Billanes said
that Bt corn reduces farm production. He added that efficacy of Bt crops
in pest control created problems, such as pests becoming resistant to Bt
toxin.


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Etta: Review process for OK of 'Bt' corn permit
SOURCE: Today/abs-cbnNews
        http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/abs_news_body.asp?section=Provincial&
        oid=23841
DATE:   May 23, 2003

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Etta: Review process for OK of 'Bt' corn permit

The Department of Agriculture might have failed to consider the
provisions of Republic Act 7308 before allowing the commercial release of
Bt corn in the country, a lawmaker said. Akbayan Party-list Rep. Loretta
Ann Rosales Friday urged DA Secretary Luis Lorenzo to review the process
that led to the approval of the permit for Bt corn commercialization. She
said that the department might have overlooked at several statutes
relating to the commercial release of Bt corn, such as RA 7308. She said
that Lorenzo, former head of the Philippine Rice Research Institute and
comes from an agribusiness background, apparently limited himself to the
provisions of the administrative order. RA 7308 created the National Seed
Industry Council which replaced the Philippine Seed Board. It is an
interagency body tasked with the establishment of seed standards and
systems relating to the evaluation, review and commercial release of crop
varieties. This law should take precedence over an administrative order.
Rosales argued that RA 7308 covers all seeds, and while it does not
mention genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it is wide in scope to
safely assume that new varieties not considered beforehand can be
included in its scope. "The country is yet to develop an environmental
impact-assessment system for GMOs, which is all the reason why the
government should not be deliberate in commercializing and releasing GMOs
like Bt corn in the country," said Rosales. J. Libunao.


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