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Cebuanos reject GE ‘Golden’ rice anew, calls support for Ecological Agriculture

October 8, 2014

CEBU CITY – At the People’s Forum on Ecological Agriculture held today in Cebu City, more than 400 leaders representing various farming group, women and youth organizations, consumer and health advocates have declared strong opposition against genetically modified ‘Golden’ rice and called on the Department of Agriculture to protect their crops from possible contamination with genetically modified organisms (GMO).

The renewed call was supported by Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale and 3rd District Board Member Gigi Sanchez along with other local government and municipalities of the province. Vice Gov. Magpale in her message recalled that most of the concerns surrounding GMOs relates to their potential for negative effects on the human health. “Over a decade ago, there was an attempt to apply GMOs to crops for mass production, but this was rejected due to its destructive effects,” she said.

Vice Governor Magpale pointed out that the second highest budgetary priority of Cebu province is to agriculture and food production. The thrust of the present capitol administration is to ensure food security and to ensure that what we grow, market, buy, cook, feed, serve and eat are food that are not chemically laden and are non-GMOs.

Urging everyone to fight GMOs, Magpale said, “let us join hands and declare war against GMOs for a safe and healthy agricultural food production for Cebuanos.”

In 2013, Greenpeace has found GMO contamination in white corn sold in various markets in Sultan Kudarat. Cebuanos who are white corn eaters are wary that GMO contamination has reached Cebu and endangers their traditional heirloom variety called Tiniguib.

Environmental releases of GMOs, whether through field trials or commercial propagation, leads to contamination which undermines the choice of farmers not to plant and consumers not to eat GMOs.

White corn eaters especially diabetics prefer Tiniguib because of its low glycemic index. Farmers on the other hand favor this variety for its longer shelf life enabling farmers to keep and continue replanting them without the need to buy seeds again for planting which is often the case for GMOs and hybrids. With Tiniguib, farmers’ food, nutrition and source of income are assured.

“Farming has been my main source of income, but I practice organic and diversified farming. This ensures that the variety of crops I produce will be safe and healthy to be eaten by people, including my own family,” said Mario Manaban, a farmer from Carcar City. “There have been offers for me to plant GMO seeds, saying it will boost my production and provide higher yield from my farm. But I rejected the offer because there are just so many uncertainties and risks linked to these GMOs.”

Aside from genetically modified corn, another GM crop about to be planted and tested in the Philippines is ‘Golden’ rice, touted to help solve Vitamin A deficiency and address world hunger.

GM proponents have also marketed GMOs as economically viable to local farmers. Greenpeace and other groups disprove this, saying how many farmers worldwide have been trapped into an endless cycle of dependency and debt from these powerful agro-chemical corporations. Recently, the ongoing Farmer Scientists Training Program (FSTP), known for using only Philippine varieties of white corn cultivated for food, explained how the domestically-grown open pollinated variety (OPV) of white corn is now massively propagated by farmers for its high yield, with the seeds only costing between P20-25 per kilo, compared to the genetically modified Bt corn seeds which cost P100-150 per kilo.

“Government should support and promote Ecological Agriculture to farmers, instead of offering seeds and technologies from agrochemical companies,” stressed Praxides Embalzado of #GMO Free Cebu.

Unlike genetically modified organisms, Ecological Agriculture taps into ecological systems and natural processes to produce food sustainably, making use of natural and organic fertilizers; diversified farming methods like intercropping; and the use of cultural, traditional and natural methods to control pests. Working in harmony with nature, ecological agriculture boosts Filipino farmers’ livelihood and provides people with health and nutrition benefits.

“Ecological Agriculture is the only way to ensure food and nutrition security among Filipinos,” said Daniel Ocampo, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace. “Even the recent UN Study has shown that only small-scale organic agriculture will feed the world in the future, not these risky GMOs” he added.