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Supreme Court stand on GMOs

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Nelly Favis-Villafuerte

Nelly Favis-Villafuerte

The discussion as to whether or not food preparations that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are safe for our health is world-wide. Not only governments of states/countries are participating in the discussion but even the man in the street. In the end, it is the consumers who will make the final choice whether or not to patronize GMO products especially food since they are the ones who will ultimately suffer if GMOs are not good for the health.

One may ask: What is the so-called GMOs? Simply, plants or animals whose DNA have been altered are known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And in the Internet, foods that have been altered in a biological way usually by modifying them in a laboratory while they are still in their seed or plant stages, by adding nutrients or increasing its resistance to certain pests – are known as the genetically modified foods.

WHO (World Health Organization) has a similar definition to guide WHO Member State Governments with regard their evaluation/assessment of the nature and safety of genetically modified foods, to wit: “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology,” sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering.” It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.”

Prince Charles once called GMOs the “biggest environmental disaster of all times” while agriculture industrialists like Monsanto swear that GMOs are safe for human consumption and a boom for the government.

There are plants/products that been genetically modified/altered including rice, corn, wheat, tomatoes, soybeans, potatoes and carrots. The reason given for the genetic alteration is for said crops to resist pests and herbicide, delay ripening and enhance their nutritional value. About five years ago, the field testing of golden rice-a genetically modified rice artificially inserted with genes from a bacteria and corn to produce beta carotene was publicized. In August 2013, around 400 farmers went to the testing area of golden rice in Pili, Camarines Sur and uprooted the genetically-modified golden rice. The farmers who were members of an anti GMO group said that the golden rice will contaminate their native rice crops and create risks to public health and the environment. (Reference: Information about the golden rice case found in the Internet)
The case of the golden rice (where some 400 farmers uprooted the genetically modified plant) will show that there are groups and advocates of anti-GMO products in the Philippines. We are no different from other countries, where the public is opposing government projects favoring GMOs.

On December 8, 2015 our Supreme Court upheld the decision earlier promulgated by our Court of Appeals in May, 2013 which favored the petition of some Anti-GMO groups to stop some government agencies from conducting field testing for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant (talong).

The Supreme Court did more than just stopped the conducting of field testing – the Supreme Court also stopped the propagation, commercialization and importation of genetically-modified organisms being used on plants pending the promulgation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) of a new Administrative Order to replace DA-AO No. 8 series of 2002 which was declared null and void by the Supreme Court. However, our Supreme Court reversed its December 8, 2015 decision on July 26, 2016.

The December 8, 2015 stopped the field testing of the controversial genetically modified eggplants and issuance of new permits on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Supreme Court spokesperson, Theodore Te in its July 26, 2016 decision said that, “these cases, which stemmed from respondents’ petition for writ of kailikasan, were mooted by the expiration of the Biosafety Permits issued by the Bureau of Plant Industry and the termination of BT talong field trails subject of the permits.”

Have a joyful day!

(For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: villafuerte_nelly@yahoo.com)

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