GENET archive


REGULATION & RISK ASSESSMENT: Philippines: FDA says GM food safe, requires no labeling

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE:  Business Mirror

AUTHOR:  Alladin S. Diega


DATE:    09.12.2013

SUMMARY: "Proponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as safe-to-eat gained the upper-hand as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement on Friday it will not require labeling of GM products."

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PROPONENTS of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as safe-to-eat gained the upper-hand as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement on Friday it will not require labeling of GM products.

GMOs virtually has no difference from conventional food, is not cancer-causing, and has been proven safe for human health under numerous tests, the FDA statement said.

According to the food authority, packaged products containing GM crops like the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn and those that are not yet in the market, the Bt eggplant and the Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice, have no verifiable difference from any other conventional crops, adding that labeling is only mandatory if there are safety issues.

?These are as safe as the usual crops in the market. The nutrition contents too are substantially equivalent compared to usual farmers? produce, so why GM food should be labeled?? Oscar Gutierrez Jr., chairman of the FDA Policy Planning Office, was quoted in the statement as saying.



ON May 17, the Special 13th Division of the Court of Appeals issued a ruling to permanently stop confined field trials of Bt eggplant because these allegedly pose risks to human health and the environment.

The appellate court said the field trials of Bt talong (Bt eggplant) are unsafe to humans and environment and that the government of Philippines has failed to adopt sufficient biosafety protocols, as well as feasibility studies on GMOs to protect the environment and people?s health.

The groups Masipag (Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development), Greenpeace Southeast Asia, and other advocates against GMOs contend that Bt eggplant is genetically modified to produce its own toxin to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borer.

According to these groups, genetic engineering disrupts the precise sequence of genetic codes, disturbing the functions of neighboring genes, and that when consumed; GM foods may give rise to potentially toxic or allergenic molecules or even alter the nutritional value.

Concerns were also raised over genetic contamination, wherein a GMO crop reproduces once released in the open via pollination and interacts genetically with natural varieties of the same crop. Bt corn has contaminated the indigenous varieties of corn in Oaxaca, Mexico, a rich gene pool for maize varieties, according to a study published in academic science journal  Nature.

In an earlier interview, Masipag said that prospects of export for Philippine organic corn, and eventually rice, might be affected once contamination is proven.

Last month the Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary for Operations Dante S. Delima said the country has already shipped out 350 metric tons of organic rice to several countries.

Biotechnology was identified by the agriculture department as one of the strategies of the government to pursue its food staples sufficiency program in improving the production of staple foods to feed the burgeoning population.



ACCORDING to the FDA, the difference between GM and non-GM crops is the presence of recombinant DNA or the protein gene that is present in GM crops.

However, in the process of cooking the GM crop, the protein is destroyed or denatured, the FDA said.

?Once cooked, it?s no longer there. The food no longer carries the verifiable recombinant DNA. So what is there to label?? Gutierrez said, adding that in processed products like corn oil or corn syrup which are by-products of both GM and non-GM crops, nutritional content is practically the same in all aspects.

Bt corn, which contains the Bt protein, cannot harm humans because it will need an alkaline environment to be activated, and human guts are acidic, Antonio A. Alfonso said in an interview.

Alfonso, director of DA?s Crop Biotechnology Center, added that the human body does not have receptors in their cells to receive the insecticidal protein.



IN its ?Draft Guidelines on Labeling of Prepackaged Foods Derived from or Containing Ingredients from Modern Biotechnology,? the food and drug agency indicated that it will not require labeling for GM packaged foods.

?Special labeling shall not be required for prepackaged food products derived from modern biotechnology that is highly processed as to eliminate the verifiable presence of recombinant DNA [rDNA] or its resulting protein. [These] are substantially equivalent compared with its conventional counterpart or as safe,? it added.

The regulation is in accord with the food safety standards Codex Alimentarius listed in the ?Compilation of Codex Texts Relevant to Labelling of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology.?

Special labels will only be required when there is safety concern about food, according to the guidelines, and this only in instances that ?significant change in composition, level of toxin, toxicity, allergenicity, nutritional value, or intended use of the food product as compared to its comparator.?

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization in 1963 to develop harmonized international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair trade practices. The commission also promotes coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations like European Food Safety Authority and International Life Science Inc. The Sanitary Phytosanitary Agreement of the World Trade Organization ensures that internationally traded food meets the standards based on the scientific principles set by the CAC.



IN its Advisory 2013-014 on ?Safety of GM Food Produced through Modern Biotechnology? dated June 24, 2013, the FDA stated that food-safety assessment of biotechnology products ?is more rigorous,? compared to other conventionally bred crops.

?For the GM food crops that have undergone food-safety assessment and approval process, the consensus of scientific opinion and evidence is that the application of GM technology introduces no unique food safety concerns and up to this time there is no single case of evidence of harm in man,? the FDA said.

The FDA also said with GM crops, Filipino farmers who do not want to plant biotech crops may use conventional seeds that are widely available. Farmers planting corn have chosen to plant the GM Bt corn which as of 2012 occupied 719,446 hectares. This area was up from 685,372 hectares in 2011 and was a steady increase from around 10,000 hectares when it was first planted in 2003, it noted.

                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------


SOURCE:  GMO Seralini



DATE:    09.10.2013

SUMMARY: "Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and individual petitioners have welcomed the decision by the Philippines Court of Appeals to uphold its previous ruling to stop the field trials of Bt eggplant."

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Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and individual petitioners have welcomed the decision by the Philippines Court of Appeals to uphold its previous ruling to stop the field trials of Bt eggplant.

It?s interesting that seven expert witnesses in the latest court case reportedly tried, but failed, to rebut the Seralini 2012 study, which found serious health effects in rats fed GM maize NK603 and tiny amounts of Roundup herbicide over the long term.

It?s difficult or impossible to dismiss this study on grounds of scientific and factual considerations. The only way it can be done is by deliberately overlooking or twisting the facts and focusing on the political intent to promote GM technology!

The Philippines court?s view of the Seralini study is backed up by some scientists from Brazil?s regulatory body CTNBio:

as well as a group of Belgian experts who were asked to comment on the study:

and numerous scientists who signed open letters and wrote individual letters in support of the study:

Court of Appeals affirms MASIPAG

    Greenpeace petition against Bt eggplant field trials, 1 oct 2013


Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and individual petitioners are pleased that the Court of Appeals stood by its decision to stop the field trials of Bt eggplant. Bt eggplant (or talong) is genetically modified to produce its own toxin to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB).

The court, in its ruling elucidated the possible harm Bt talong may bring. The decision said that ?the testing or introduction of Bt talong in the Philippines, by its nature and intent, is a grave and present danger to a balanced ecology because in any book and by any yardstick, it is an ecologically imbalancing event.? The court also mentioned that even if there is no factual evidence that Bt talong may bring harm to health, there were also no factual evidence either that it may not cause harm to anyone. However, when a study of Gilles-Eric Seralini wherein rats were fed with Roundup-tolerant GM corn for two years developed health problems was presented in court, the seven expert witnesses who testified were not able to convincingly rebut the said study. Hence, the court granted the precautionary principle.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals also reaffirmed its decision on the issue saying that the respondents? motions for reconsideration shows no compelling reason to warrant a reversal or modification of the court?s May 17, 2013 decision. In its May decision, the court granted the Writ of Kalikasan and Continuing Mandamus on the grounds: that there is no scientific consensus on the safety and impacts of Bt talong; that there is no Congressional enactment that governs GMOs like Bt talong; that precautionary principle is applicable in the light of uncertainties and inadequacy/ineffectiveness of the current regulatory system; Bt talong, with its social, economic and environmental impacts, should not be entrusted to scientists only but should involve the all stakeholders.

?This is but a vindication of our campaign against the entry of genetically modified crops in our food system? said Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of MASIPAG. ?We laud the Court of Appeals for safeguarding the right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology. This is an initial victory, as the country has about 70 GMO products which the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry approved for food, feed or processing. This includes GM corn, which for the past ten years is being freely planted in our country. Apart from unintended health and environmental effects, GM corn planting also led to the bankruptcy of corn farmers,? said Medina.

Recently, MASIPAG released a new study on the socio-economic impacts of GM corn on the lives and livelihood of corn farmers. The study showed ?evidence of failure?, wherein farmers incurred huge debt because of the rising cost of GM seeds and its corresponding inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides. Since its introduction in 2003, GM corn seed prices doubled, and prices of fertilizers skyrocketed. Medina said that ?in all, external inputs (seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) eat about 40-48% of the total expenses that a farmer spends per season, and all of these goes to the corn traders/financiers and agrochemical companies?.

Apart from decreased incomes, farmers also reported changes in soil fertility, increased soil erosion, contamination of corn varieties and negative effects on human and animal health.

?After ten years, we have yet to see a comprehensive post-commercial monitoring of GM corn. With hundreds of thousands of hectares planted to herbicide-resistant GM corn, estimates suggest that more than 5 Million liters of glyphosate are being dumped into our fields in 2011 alone. Herbicide application not only increases weed resistance, but the run-off also affects natural soil cover and increases exposure of farmers and consumers to the toxic substance. It is also reported that farmers and their families who ate GM corn suffer some form of toxicity. However, because of the lack of strict policies and regulations governing GMOs, these problems are put into the wayside,? added Medina.

Medina stressed that with recent ruling on Bt eggplant and the evidences on the experience of GM corn farmers, it is but fitting that the commercialization of GM corn, the continued field trials of Golden Rice and the importation of other GMOs be stopped.