Philippines' groups warn politicians against endorsing GMOs (10/3/2004)

Philippines' groups warn politicians against endorsing GMOs
Mindanao groups warn presidential bets vs endorsing GMOs
TODAY Correspondent (Philipinnes)
Thursday, March 11, 2004 1:22 AM

KORONADAL CITY - Groups in Mindanao opposing the controversial Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn have vowed to campaign against presidential candidates who will exclude in their platforms issues related to the transgenic plant and other genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Bernie Mondragon, coordinator of the Davao City-based Kabataan Consortium Inc., said they would wage a nationwide campaign among youth voters to discourage them from voting presidential contenders who will take the GMO issue, particularly the Bt corn, for granted.

“Bt corn poses threats to life and, therefore, must be opposed. Our stand will translate into votes in the coming elections. We will strongly campaign against the presidential [bets] who are for GMOs, particularly Bt corn,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday.

According to Mondragon, they were alarmed by the recent finding of Norwegian scientist Terje Traavik that traces of Bt toxin were found in the blood samples of residents living near a Bt corn field in sitio Kalyong, barangay Landan in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

In July last year B’laan residents there had complained of symptoms allegedly caused by Bt- corn. Their blood samples were tested by Traavik in Norway two months later.

But Traavik, at a recent news briefing in General Santos City, clarified that the “traces of Bt toxin in the blood samples might not be the result of their exposure to the Bt corn site,” stressing that more scientific studies should be done for a conclusive finding.

Mondragon said his group has tied up with Kalitawhan Working Group on Biodiversity, Metsa Foundation and Masipag-Mindanao to campaign against presidential candidates who are for the advancement of GMOs in the country.

He added that the coalition is on its final stages of drafting a module that would guide them in campaigning against presidential bets who are in favor of Bt corn and other genetically modified crops.

The campaign would be waged nationwide at the end of this month, Mondragon said.

His group, Kabataan Consortium Inc., is composed of nine nongovernment organizations that have programs on the rights of children, which, he said, can be relied upon in carrying out the campaign against the presidential bets who are deemed pro-GMOs.

Mondragon said they were worried that 17 of those positively tested for traces of Bt toxin were children aged five months to 20 years old.

Testimonies of the victims documented by the local Catholic Church showed that they had suffered vomiting, severe stomach pain, cough, nausea, fever and general weakness of the body during the flowering stage of the Bt corn planted in their village last year.

Mondragon, however, failed to mention who among the six presidential candidates would be the subjects of the campaign.

President Arroyo, who is seeking a full six-year term, is being challenged by movie actor Fernando Poe Jr, former National Police chief-turned-senator Panfilo Lacson, former education secretary Raul Roco, evangelist Eddie Villanueva and businessman Eddie Gil.

The coalition, in a news statement, also reiterated its call to stop the commercialization of Bt corn, a ban on the entry of imported products containing GMOs and a freeze on all field trials of other GM crops or organisms.

The Arroyo administration, through the agriculture department, approved in December 2002 the commercialization of Monsanto’s Bt corn variety in the country.

Leonardo Montemayor, predecessor of current Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr., reportedly said early last year that the approval of Monsanto’s license for the commercialization of its Bt corn was “hastily given.”

“We are not physicists who can predict the future events but we are sure that there would be more incidents similar to that of Kalyong [Bt corn traces in blood of residents] that will happen in the near future if the government fails to address this issue [Bt corn],” said Masipag-Mindanao’s Bobby Pagusara.  


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