Provincial governments endorse GM Free Zones in the Philippines (14/7/2006)

Provincial governments may be endorsing GM Free Zones in the Philippines (see item below) but they've reckoned without Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panagniban who poses the question, "Has anybody died from vinegar that is a GMO product?" (Panganiban: Alternatives needed before RP can ban GMO produce)

Provincial offices, NGOs endorse GMO Free Zones
By Nonoy Espina
INQ7.net (Philippines), 14 July 2006

PARTICIPANTS of a national agriculture conference endorsed on Friday the establishment of GMO (genetically-modified organism) Free Zones and a bias for sustainable agriculture as the only way to achieving real food security for the country.

International environmental group Greenpeace Southeast Asia, which organized the July 13 to 14 National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and GMO Free Zones at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City said representatives of several provincial agriculture offices were among the conference participants -- mostly non-government and people's organizations -- that batted for sustainable agriculture.

Among the provinces represented at the conference were Abra, Isabela, Camarines Norte, Mindoro, Palawan, Marinduque, Misamis Occidental, Agusan Del Norte, Cebu, Bukidnon, Lanao Del Norte, Bohol, and Negros Occidental.

"Greenpeace urges local governments in other parts of the country to make their provinces GE free," Greenpeace Southeast Asia genetic engineering campaigner Daniel Ocampo said. "GMO-free agriculture is the only way toward true sustainable agriculture."

Conference participants also declared that "the government should re-examine the current regulations on GMO crops which favor multinational biotech companies at the expense of local sustainable and organic farming initiatives," Greenpeace said in a statement.

Ocampo said the national government "should prioritize local efforts toward GMO-free sustainable agriculture and work for the interest of local farmers instead of willfully killing sustainable agriculture with its obvious bias toward GMO crops developed, patented, and marketed commercially by multinational bio-tech companies."

Greenpeace said the government approved the commercialization of genetically-engineered crops in 2002 with the introduction of Bt corn, "amid pressure from US GMO lobby groups and large biotech companies like Monsanto."

"To this day, the government's agricultural policies reflect an alarming predilection toward biotech commercialization," the group said. "Just last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo proclaimed the first week of July as National Biotechnology Week, following the launch of a major government program to promote biotech, including transgenics, in agriculture."

Greenpeace said this could "only spell disaster for Philippine agriculture," citing the experiences with GE papaya in Hawaii and GE cotton in India, as well as Bt corn in the country, that "indicates that GE crops are more of a burden rather than a boon."

However, Greenpeace also noted that "several local provincial efforts, however, recognize the dangers of GMO crops."

"The province of Bohol passed a resolution banning the entry of GMOs in 2003, becoming the first GMO Free Island in the Philippines," it said.

"The provinces of Mindoro Oriental and Marinduque [as part of the 'Organic Haven Islands of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan' or MIMAROPA] both have a Provincial Environmental Code and Administrative Order also banning the entry of GMOs in their areas," it said.

Last year, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental signed a memorandum of agreement in pursuit of their shared vision to become the "Organic Island of the Philippines" and were expected to pass a similar ban on GMOs.

Similar efforts are underway in several provinces in Mindanao, Greenpeace added.

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