Farmer-Scientist Group Troops to DA to Stop Bt Talong Field Trial
Farmers, scientists and non-government organizations today trooped in front of the Department of Agriculture to seek a dialogue with Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to call for the immediate stoppage of field test trials of the genetically modified talong (eggplant) at different areas in the Philippines. This came after Sec Alcala’s pronouncement that he will not approve the commercialization of the GM crop if it will cause unintended health effects to the consumers.
“Today as we celebrate World Consumer Rights Day, we as consumers are alarmed that the food that we eat is not safe. With the ongoing multi-location field trials on Bt talong, we are worried that the eggplant that we buy might already be contaminated with Bt genes. Though we laud the position of Sec Alcala that he will not commercialize the GM crop unless he is sure that it is safe but by not stopping the field test, contamination would be inevitable “, said Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development).
March 15 is being observed as the World Consumer Rights Day to educate people about their rights as consumers such as on safety, information, the right to be heard, seek redress, the right to choose, fairness and the right to a healthy environment. MASIPAG has been calling for sustainable agricultural practices in order to promote safe and healthy food for the consumers and safe food production for the small farmers.
“Studies show that the Bt talong is unfit for human consumption. Even India, where the technology originated, has put a moratorium on the commercialization of the Bt eggplant because of a number of associated risks and uncertainties. In the end, we consumers will fall victims to this unnecessary project. Clearly, these are sufficient enough that the project be cancelled”, Medina added.
Municipal and local government units in Leyte, Iloilo and Davao have already signified their objection on the Bt talong field trials. Last year, Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte ordered the uprooting of Bt talong at UP Mindanao after the university failed to comply with the requirements. Last February, environmental group Greenpeace took the initiative to decontaminate the Bt talong field trial site in Bay, Laguna to prevent contaminating nearby communities.
MASIPAG also submitted to the Office of the Agriculture Secretary copies of signed petition papers as proof that thousands of farmers, students, members of the academe and local government units from the provinces of Bicol, Pangasinan and North Cotabato are urging the secretary to stop the field trials.
“We also condemn the inaction by the Bureau of Plant Industry regarding the field trials. If they have not given the permit to field test Bt eggplant in the first place, we will not have any problems. They have not given serious consideration on the decision of the Government of India and the experiences of the Filipino farmers on other GMO products such as GM Corn” Medina added.
Basilio Prado, a farmer based in Nueva Vizcaya, said that there are lots of alternatives that farmers could use other than Bt talong that is safe both for the consumers and the farmers. “The proponents always argue that by using Bt eggplant, farmers would not be using pesticides. But the truth is farmers would still use pesticides as pests would still develop immunity against these insecticide-resistant crops. Eventually, they would revert back to pesticide spraying, using more toxic and deadly chemicals. We will still buy pesticides, thus the promise of a good income saved from buying these pesticides is not true. I, for one, use sustainable and organic agriculture practices that are safe and help the environment.”
MASIPAG joins other organizations under RESIST (Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical TNCs) and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific on the observance of World Consumer Rights Day through the COLLECTIVE RICE ACTION (CORA) 2011 campaign. The CORA 2011 campaign focuses on the call of the small rice farmers across Asia for a “Safe Rice for Health and Livelihood!”
15 March 2011
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