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[genet-news] POLICY & REGULATION: Philippine law to punish makers of harmful GMOs sought

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SOURCE: The Philippine Inquirer, Philippines

AUTHOR: Delmar Cariño


DATE:   19.04.2009

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BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- The country should pass a special law to define the liability of those responsible for injuries arising from the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), an environmental advocacy group recently said.

The Third World Network (TWN) said the government?s current rules allowing victims to seek redress for harm caused by GMOs have been purely administrative remedies (with no civil and criminal liabilities) and could not provide sufficient relief for victims.

In a paper titled, ?Liability and redress in GMOs in the Philippines,? the TWN said even laws on criminal and civil liabilities were not prepared to confront GMO-related disputes since the kind of damage caused by GMOs have been uncommon.

Copies of the paper, authored by lawyers Lilibeth Aruelo and Elpidio Peria, TWN associates, and Elenita Dano of TWN Philippines, were distributed to participants of the Supreme Court-led forum on environmental justice held from April 16 to 17 at the University of the Cordilleras here.

The TWN is an international research and advocacy organization on trade, environment and agriculture issues. Its work focuses on monitoring policy developments on climate change, biodiversity, intellectual property and bio-safety in Southeast Asia.

?There is no provision in the Revised Penal Code or in any special law which defines as specific offenses acts related to the propagation of GMOs, thus, it will be futile to use these laws as a means to secure redress for damages,? the paper said.

TWN said GMOs could cause damage to the environment, including ecosystems, human health, economic viability of farmers, food security and traditional livelihood.

It noted the existence of administrative laws that dealt with GMOs, like the Department of Agriculture?s Administrative Order No. 8 and Executive Order No. 514 or the National Bio-safety Framework.

But AO No. 8 does not provide for remedies against companies that sell harmful genetically modified seeds. On the other hand, EO No. 514 provided civil and criminal liabilities but they must be pursued in accordance with existing civil and criminal laws, it said.

These laws are also difficult to apply to liabilities arising from the use of GMOs since the nature of GMOs as a product and the kind of damage they could cause required special attention, according to TWN.

The paper said the country formed bodies to ensure the entry of safe products, such as the National Seed Quality Industry Council, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. and various consumer groups.

But it said the laws that created these bodies would still have to be pursued within the regular provisions of damage laws in the Philippines, which themselves were not prepared for GMO-related injuries.

The TWN paper said under present laws, a farmer, who suffered any injury, illness or loss from the use of GMOs would usually be pitted against a corporation.

If there would be no special law to help the farmer claim for damages, it would be difficult for him to seek redress because of the unequal economic and political situation that exist between him and the corporation, the paper said.



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