The Philippines’ Court of Appeals has ruled that immediately all genetically-modified (GMO) eggplant, Bt talong, field trials must cease, existing plantings must be destroyed, and no further propagation will be allowed. It was deemed a monumental threat to environmental and human health.
The Writ of Kalikasan orders the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other concerned government agencies to ensure that biotechnology aggressors “permanently cease and desist” from any more trials and “protect, preserve, rehabilitate and restore” the land they have destroyed through their actions. The ruling states that the Bt trials “involve the willful and deliberate alteration of the genetic traits of a living element of the ecosystem and the relationship of living organisms that depend on each other for their survival.” As “an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology,” they cannot be declared safe for human health and Philippines ecology. GMO opponents argued that they violate “the people’s constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology.”
According to Masipag, a subsidiary of Monsanto Corporation called Mahayco was seeking endorsement because its field testing permit expired in June 2013 and the testing had been pushed through despite opposition of local, national and international groups advocating environmental protection and organic farming. In July 2012, the 15th harvesting of the GMO eggplant showed high consistency in warding off the fruit-and-shoot borer with three more harvests planned by the University of Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
A gene from the common soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis was genetically engineered into the DNA of Bt talong to make it produce a protein for defense against insect attack. The bacterium has been used globally for over a decade and in about 25 percent of corn and 50 percent of cotton worldwide.
Filipino scientists are currently developing Bt cotton, camote and abaca with the goal of, like Bt talong, increasing crop yield without additional pesticide spraying. They are at an advanced stage with Golden Rice, IRRI and PhilRice, for providing vitamin A with beta carotene and helping prevent blindness, with the target of entering the commercial market in 2013. After the ruling on Bt talong, it is unknown what will happen with these projects, but they are likely to be halted for the same reasons as Bt talong. Philippine organic farm advocates are demanding the stopping of Golden Rice, developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency in 1995 approved the growing of Bt crops on farms and organic farmers spray the protein in their fields for protection from insects. GMO crops were planted on 66 million hectares (about 163,089,551 acres) of land in the states in 2010 in the form of corn, soybean, squash and papaya. Ninety percent of soybeans and 85 percent of corn planted in the US are GMOs. These foods have been consumed by Americans for almost 20 years.
There is no question that GMOs are an emotionally charged issue, as well as mention of the name Monsanto. What it is difficult to find are published trials with real scientific evidence as to whether these modifications are good or bad for human health and the environment. The European governmental method of dealing with chemicals is that they are guilty until proven innocent through much documented testing. The U.S. tends toward the innocent until proven guilty attitude which becomes a larger influence when combined with the power of lobbying large corporations.
In the meantime, should there be a right for consumers to make the decision for themselves whether to consume GMO products? Members of the Food and Water Watch Let Me Decide campaign say definitely there should and they ask for labeling of genetically engineered foods.