Farmers in Philippines uproot Bt corn (16/9/2005)

excerpt: "I've asked Governor (Arnan) Panaligan to issue a memo to all mayors to enforce the ban on GMO and I'll back it up," said Mendoza, the local mayor who is also the president of the league of mayors.

Mindoro town farmers uproot Bt-corn plants
By Madonna T. Virola
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sept 17, 2005

NAUJAN, ORIENTAL MINDORO - Backed by the municipal government and Greenpeace International, 15 farmers here decontaminated a farm planted to genetically-engineered Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn in Barangay Sta. Maria on Thursday.

Wearing protective clothing, the farmers uprooted the Bt-corn plants, placed them in plastic bags and sealed them in drums.

The farmers had been demanding a genetically modified organisms-free (GMO-free) Mindoro.

They said farm owner Lina Manibo continued to plant the Bt-corn despite a provincial ban on GMOs.

Manibo, a Department of Land Reform employee, however, allowed her farm to be decontaminated after she was informed of the environmental and health costs of Bt-corn.

"I am supporting the government in its program," she said.

The provincial government passed in June last year an environmental code, authored by lawyer Ligorio Turano, that bans GMOs.

"Provincial agriculturist Rodolfo Valdez allowed his cousin to plant Bt-corn here, arguing that 'it's the farmer's choice' because this is a free enterprise," said Ely Vargas, municipal agriculturist. "It's not actually a free choice in the end because (American company) Monsanto controls the seeds."

In an earlier interview with provincial environment and natural resources officer Mike Jumig and Lorybelle Tanyag, provincial legal officer, they said a case is under way against Monsanto for violating the code.

Instead of just a rally, Greenpeace, an international non-government organization, showed the farmers that decontamination was doable and urgent.

"What we did is a first in the country," said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner.

Ocampo said the Philippines should declare a moratorium on the release of GMOs.

He added that the government should also ensure that GMO-free areas should not be penetrated by GMOs.

The municipality of Naujan asked help from Greenpeace, knowing its expertise on the issue.

"Even before the environment code, our vision was sustainable agriculture where the farmers are the focal point of development and not mere beneficiaries of the so-called 'modern technology,' which is beyond their capabilities to manage. We need to go back to basic organic farming where the farmers are not dependent on the government for assistance," said Naujan Mayor Norberto Mendoza.

"I've asked Governor (Arnan) Panaligan to issue a memo to all mayors to enforce the ban on GMO and I'll back it up," said Mendoza, also the president of the league of mayors.

Panaligan said he would issue a memo in the first week of October.

A lawyer, the governor clarified that the free enterprise principle invoked by Valdez does not apply because there is a code that bans GMOs.

"We'll conduct information campaign among farmers," he said.

Vargas said that in the Green Revolution of Masagana 99, the farmers were just made to consume 12 bags of fertilizers (from six) but Bt-corn requires 15 bags.

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