LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—Farmers from several parts of the Philippines belonging to the Asian Farmers Network (Asfarnet) vowed they would mobilize their ranks for an all-out campaign to push for an unhindered science-based agricultural learning to address the country’s food security.
The stakeholders, during National Agri-Biotechnology Farmers’ Congress at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) auditorium held in this science town on Friday, were unanimous in declaring that modern biotechnology has helped crop production without jeopardizing human health and the environment.
Searca Director Gil Saguiguit said the recent Supreme Court (SC) ruling to temporary stop the research, laboratory tests and field testing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), would result in a negative implication to the country’s ongoing studies related to agriculture, particularly in the development of biotechnology.
“But as it is, the ruling would have implications on what we are doing and the parallel research that other institutions are doing in line with food production. And if the SC says that products of biotechnology are not safe, they have to prove it, because when we say it’s safe, we can prove it,” Saguiguit said. Part of the SC ruling states that, “Consequently, any application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization, importation of genetically modified organisms is temporarily enjoined until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with law.”
One of the ongoing research that would be jeopardized is the Golden Rice project of the International Rice Research Institute, that would not see field testing as a result of the SC ruling. Golden rice is a potential source of vitamin A.
Reynaldo Cabanao, Asfarnet president, said the SC ruling would stall ongoing research and future testing of biotech crops. And the GMO crops, such as the Bt corn, that are already propagated by farmers would be jeopardized.
“The SC ruling would cause the collapse of the corn industry in the country affecting the economy and the lives of millions of farmers dependent on the industry,” Cabanao said.
He added that the Philippines has more than 700,000 hectares planted to Bt corn seeds. “If the use of GMO corn seeds is stopped, the corn industry would regress from its rosy development,” Cabanao said.
Asfarnet said the Philippines produces about 35 million metric tons (MT) of corn each cropping season, or 70 MMT a year. In 2014 12 MMT of corn silage were exported to South Korea and the volume is increasing since corn export to that country started in 2010.
Cabanao said that, as a result of the possible drop of corn production, the livestock industry and feed millers will also suffer as a consequence. “If importation of Bt corn seeds is banned, millions of farmers who are relying on the corn industry for subsistence would likely add up to the poverty incidence of the country,” Cabanao said.