Government bodies colluded with giant firms on entry of GMOs (2/10/2007)

Government bodies colluded with giant firms on entry of GMOs
By TJ Burgonio
Inquirer (Philippines), 10/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The environment group Greenpeace denounced on Tuesday the entry into the country of genetically modified foods and organisms and accused government regulators of having links with multinational companies that produced them.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Greenpeace activists released a report detailing the alleged links of members of regulatory agencies under the Department of Agriculture with lobby groups funded directly or indirectly by GMO-producing corporations.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap declined to comment. A staff member said he would issue a statement after reading the report.

Greenpeace campaign director Von Hernandez said that the "interlinking connections" smacked of conflict of interest that turned the regulatory process into a "sham."

Altering the genes of plants and organisms for various purposes using recombinant DNA technology remains controversial. Companies produce them to create varieties resistant to pests, herbicides or harsh environments, and to increase nutritional value or shelf life.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace, however, fear that tampering with the balance of nature holds unknown risks. Many countries have banned imports of GMOs until more safety and impact studies are completed. But the World Trade Organization sees a blanket ban as an obstacle to free trade.

Since the creation of the regulatory bodies in 2004, the Philippines has approved 44 GMO applications at a rate of "one application every one and a half months," according to Greenpeace.

Of the applications, 40 products were approved for direct use as food, feed and processing, and the rest were crops approved for propagation.

The regulatory bodies are the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and Biotech Core Team (BCT) under the DA, and the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) under the Department of Science and Technology.

A fourth body is the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), which is independent of the rest.

Citing their own research, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner Daniel Ocampo claimed that three of the 15-man BCT openly supported campaigns to promote GMOs developed by corporations such as Bt corn and GM rice, canola, soybean, cotton and potato.

He said "80 percent" of STRP members have been working with institutions that partnered with multinational GMO corporations in the research and promotion of GMO crops and products.

A number of STRP members were granted permits to conduct GMO research while they were still sitting in the STRP board, according to Ocampo.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer withheld the names of the personalities named by Greenpeace because they could not be reached for comment.

Greenpeace has secured a temporary restraining order and injunction from a Quezon City court stopping the government from approving the entry of GMO rice -- Bayer's GMO LL62 -- for lack of public consultation, among other grounds.

The group warned that the approval of the genetically enginereed rice would "alter the future" of the country's staple food.


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