Staving off GMO invasion of organic island (13/4/2007)

1.Staving off GMO invasions
2.NOAM backs banning of GMOs

NOTE: Both these articles are about the island of Negros Occidental in the Philippines.


1.Staving off GMO invasions
Benedicto Sanchez
Sun Star, 9 April 2007

I PLANNED to write an Easter column about the resurrection and the "afterlife" of some former high-ranking Maoist cadres who returned to their childhood Christian faith. But that will have to wait another time. A happy Easter to all!

April 11, 2007 is a heartbeat away when the provincial government holds a second public hearing on the anti-GMO ordinance to protect the island's emerging organic food industry.

Those who will attend should heed a recent TIME article on how American organic farmers were double-crossed when genetically modified (GM) corn cross-pollinated their cattle feed. Their experience should ring warning bells in Negros Island, the organic food bowl of Asia.

Organic food, by globally-accepted standards, must be free of GM materials, and organic crops are required to be isolated from non-organic crops. That might be possible with chemically-cultivated crops, but with GM planting materials, that is fast becoming a tall order.

As the Time article noted, as GM crops become more prevalent, there is little that an organic farmer can do to prevent a speck of GM pollen or a stray GM seed from being blown by the wind onto his land or farm equipment and, eventually, into his products. In 2006, GM crops accounted for 61 percent of all the corn planted in the U.S. and 89 percent of all the soybeans. With the resurgence of corn-based ethanol in the US, we can expect a further percentage increase of GM cornfields.

It noted the experience of Californian Albert Straus, owner of the Straus Family Creamery. He decided to test the feed that he gives his 1,600 cows and was alarmed to find that nearly six percent of the organic corn feed he received from suppliers was "contaminated" by GMOs.

With five other natural food producers, Strauss and organic industry leader Whole Foods announced that they would seek a new certification for their products, "non-GMO verified," in the hopes that it will become a voluntary industry standard for GM-free goods.

A non-profit group called the Non-GMO Project runs the program, and the testing is conducted by an outside lab called Genetic ID. In a few weeks, Straus expects to become the first food manufacturer in the country to carry the "non-GMO verified" label on top of his "organic" certification. With Whole Foods inside the loop, the rest of the organic industry is expected to follow his footsteps.

If you wonder about the big deal on GM-free certification, well, it IS a big deal. The additional cost for the "non-GMO verified" label is no chicken feed, as Strauss found out.

To stamp out GM corn, Straus plunked $10,000 testing, re-testing and tracing back his products: from his own dairy's milk, to other dairies that supply some of his milk, to the brokers who sell them feed, to their mills that grind the corn, to farmers who grow it. To put the GM-free label on his ice cream, Straus will have to trace the chickens that provided the egg yolks, the grain used in the alcohol that carries his vanilla extract and the soy lecithin used as an emulsifier for his chocolate chips.

Certification labeling is a crucial element in the organic industry. It's a mark of good housekeeping, a seal of trustworthiness that a product is free from growth hormones, antibiotics, poisonous synthetic chemicals and GM contaminants. In the global organic market, an organically-labeled food item translates to premium prices above their non-organic counterpart.

With the growing incidence of cancer which are traced to junk and fast food, the organic industry has rephrased the adage to "an organic apple a day keeps the doctor away." That means that even if a consumer pays more for organic products, the cost still constitute a savings if organic produce can keep the doctor at bay.

Let the bleeding hearts of those who pushed for the second hearing to give the likes of Monsanto and other transnational GM-based companies a fair shake take to heart Albert Strauss's lessons in life. By abetting the GM invasion of our organic island, they would have shown not their spirit of fair play but their bias toward these multinational companies, and their betrayal of the organic industry.

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2.NOAM backs banning of GMOs in Negros
Daily Star, April 13 2007

The Negros Organic Agriculture Movement has expressed support to the move of the provincial government to ban genetically modified organisms in Negros Occidental.

In its position paper signed by its 17 members, NOAM said that the banning of GMOs in the province is indispensable in attaining the goal of making Negros the "Organic Food Bowl in Asia."

The group's move came after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed in the first reading the ordinance that will prohibit the entry of GMO products in Negros Occidental.

"We totally agree with the provincial government that banning GMOs within the territorial jurisdiction of the province is indispensable in the attainment of such goal," NOAM said.

The group cited legal, economic and technical grounds as well as health and environmental considerations in stating their position. It said that most documented experiences in Spain, Canada, USA showed that GM crops produce lower yields at higher costs that resulted to lower income of farmers compared to farmers planting non-GM crops.

In the Philippines, they said, BT corn seed is two times more expensive than hybrid corn.

"A basic issue about GM crops is that it is not a precise technology and the GM products are not stable and it causes genetic pollution," NOAM said, adding that pests will easily develop immunity to GM crops, therefore, GM technologies are not reliable and not sustainable way to control pest.

The growing ill-effects of GM crops on health have affected people in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Davao Oriental, they said.

On effects to the environment, NOAM also noted that GM corn contamination can occur up to 530 meters even at 19 days planting interval.

If contamination occurs, it could happen without the knowledge and consent of farmers and consumers alike, the group added.



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