First two items via Robert Vint (see reply to address) + press item "Golden rice strain stirs controversy"
The first article is a News Release from the KMP farmers union in the Philippines, opposing "Golden Rice" and other GM rice crops. The second is a(pro-GM) newspaper report confirming that the Phillipines government is stopping GM research in response to grass-roots protests by farmers.
Farmers Assail "Golden Rice", Call for IRRI's Closure
February 26, 2001
Reference: RAFAEL MARIANO, Head of the Secretariat, International Alliance Against Agro-Chem TNCs KMP Chairperson
The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the International Alliance Against Agro-Chem TNC's, on Monday, assailed the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on the recent arrival and planned field testing in the country of a genetically engineered (GE) rice or the so-called "golden rice."
Rafael Mariano, KMP chairperson and Head of the Secretariat of the International Alliance Against Agro-Chem TNC's, said that the "so-called 'golden rice' variety is a genetically modified crop produced by agro-chemical transnational corporation Syngenta AG which aims to squeeze gigantic profit from poor farmers in Asia, particularly in the Philippines."
Mariano also said "the peasantry's experience during the green revolution of the Marcos regime, where numerous rice varieties flood the countryside, shows that the use of "high yielding varieties" (HYV's) did not boost local rice production. Instead, rampant use of HYV's destroyed the natural fertility of the soil and the extinction of local rice varieties."
"IRRI must be closed," Mariano stressed, "it subvert Philippine agriculture because it's researches serves agro-chem TNC's interest for profit. It only intensified the agricultural sector's dependence in buying genetically engineered crops."
The KMP also lambasted IRRI's claim that "golden rice" is the solution to Vitamin A deficiency of farmers and the people.
"Golden rice is absolutely not a solution to vitamin A deficiency because vitamin A is not a problem. The Philippines have rich sources of vitamin A such as fresh vegetables, fish and mineral resources. The biggest problem farmers are facing until now is landlessness," Mariano added.
Mariano also challenged Secretary Leonardo Montemayor of the Department of Agriculture to immediately act on the entry of "golden rice".
"This is a test case to Secretary Montemayor. He must now prove his recent pronouncements that he is against the use and field testing of genetically engineered crops by immediately acting on this matter," Mariano ended. ###
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Peasant Movement of the Philippines URL: <http://www.geocities.com/kmp_phhttp://www.geocities.com/kmp_ph
The following is a pro-GM report of the Philippines' government decision to stop biotech research
Biotech row rages
The Manila Times, Philippines, by Manolo B. Jara http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2001/feb/20/opinion/20010220opi6.html
February 20, 2001 archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html
THE heated and sometimes bitter debate continues and, this time, biotechnology proponents appear to be on the receiving end.
This occurred when President Macapagal-Arroyo made a statement that henceforth, the government would no longer allow research on genetically-altered crops or genetically-modified organisms (GMOs, as they are more popularly known).
GMO crops are plants which have genetic material from other organisms spliced into them to boost their yield or cut production costs for farmers.
Last week, the President said her government was putting a stop to biotech research, citing a groundswell of opposition to the introduction of GMO crops and foods. "There is great objection to this from civil society. So the Philippines will not be initiating or pushing for this experimentation, she told a Malacang press conference.
Her statement means a 360-degree turn from the policy first adopted by then president Corazon Aquino who was installed in Malacanang by EDSA I that ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. She saw biotechnology as a vital tool, especially its long-range value that would benefit farmers, especially in improving their lives.
President Fidel Ramos continued with this policy and until now his Agriculture secretary, Salvador Escudero, speaks out regularly in favor of biotechnology.
And so did deposed president Estrada and his Agriculture secretary, Edgardo Angara. They even expanded on this by issuing a policy statement that biotechnology would anchor the governmentÃ•s thrust for national food security.
Now, all this has gone for naught. Herself the direct beneficiary of EDSA 2 that deposed the corrupt Estrada regime, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo seems to have abandoned a proven approach to agricultural modernization and pandered to the demands of some elements in civil society.
Environmentalists claim that modified plants are a potential hazard. One of the dangers, they say, is that these crops may prove so resilient that they could conquer other plants in their habitat and proliferate unchecked.
Against these "scare tactics" are solid and scientifically-proven arguments that biotechnology could, indeed, help hasten agricultural modernization.
The use of genetically-altered crops as biological control agents, for instance, will reduce drastically the use of harmful chemical pesticides. Their use will also increase farm production without harming the environment.
But with her statement, it looks as if the President will now allow the advances made by Filipino scientists and researchers to go to waste. It will also effectively block the introduction of GMO crops that have proven effective in increasing food output in foreign countries.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo is apparently unaware her statement will also put an end to ongoing research being done by a nationwide network of local biotech scientists and researchers. With the Los Banos-based National Institute of Molecular Biology and Technology (BIOTECH) at the lead role, the network consists of 300 researchers based at the University of the Philippines System in Diliman, Quezon City, Manila, Los Ba?os and the Visayas.
Former president Ramos issued Executive Order 526 in 1995, constituting the network. In this light, the President should reconsider her stand and order an in-depth study on biotechnology, particularly its potential benefits.
If she stands firm on her statement, fears are that this would consign the country's agricultural sector to traditional practices and methods akin to confining that sector to the Dark Ages in farming. --- [NB how restrained the goldn rice sales pitch is these days] Sun Star Network of Community Newspapers, the Philippines (Online) Monday, February 26, 2001 'Golden rice' strain stirs controversy LOS BANOS -- After nearly a decade of research in Europe, the much-acclaimed "golden rice" has finally arrived in Asia, its intended destination. But even before the genetically engineered (GE) rice is transplanted from the laboratory to the fields, it has created controversy. One green group has labelled it "fool's gold."
The first research samples of golden rice were brought to the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in January from Switzerland, where the strain was invented. "The arrival of these initial samples at IRRI is a very significant step and allows us to finally start on the required testing processes using local rice varieties," said Ronald Cantrell, director of the institute tucked away in Los Banos, a university town southeast of the capital Manila. Golden rice has attracted much attention because it contains building blocks for vitaman A. Deficiency in the vitamin causes blindness and other diseases. The grain got its name because it glows with the golden colour of beta-carotene, the yellow-orange compound that gives carrots their colour and the world's most common source of vitamin A. The prospect of offering daily doses of this key nutrient to millions of Asians in their staple food has excited researchers and governments. Ninety percent of the world's rice is grown and consumed in Asia, the world's most populous continent. Scientists at the IRRI, the world's leading rice research center, will breed the golden rice samples, developed originally from the temperate japonica variety, into tropical indica varieties. "This would be done through the conventional breeding method of crossing or via modern genetic modifications to enhance beta-carotene production," said IRRI plant biotechnologist Swapan Datta, a key researcher in the closely watched project. Golden rice currently contains about 10 to 20 percent beta-carotene but "we want to bring that level up to at least 20 to 40 percent" to suit Asian needs, Datta said. "It will take us at least three years to send golden rice for field testing in Asia and another two years before they are available to farmers," he said. A special humanitarian board has been established, comprising public and private sector groups, to make golden rice freely available to those in need, officials said. The board is led by German professors Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, the inventors of golden rice at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology. After months of negotiations, the two inventors, along with Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG which held the patent to golden rice, agreed to hand over the first grains to IRRI for further development. Once the research is completed, golden rice will be distributed free of charge to poor farmers in the developing world, IRRI officials said. But environmental watchdog Greenpeace said the GE industry was making false promises about golden rice. European markets have resoundingly rejected GE products, and local consumers did not want them in their food, it said. Greenpeace said figures provided by the developers of golden rice show an adult would have to eat at least 12 times the average of 300 grams of rice daily to get the daily recommended amount of vitamin A. "It is clear from these calculations that the GE industry is making false promises about golden rice," said Von Hernandez, a Manila-based Greenpeace campaign director for Southeast Asia. He said golden rice does not address the underlying causes of Vitamin A deficiency, mainly poverty and lack of access to a diverse diet. Greenpeace said pill supplements and food fortification were effective short-term measures to help address vitamin A deficiency. Red palm oil, naturally rich in vitamin A, should be promoted for example, it said. But IRRI spokesman Duncan Macintosh said the institute did not consider golden rice a "quick fix or silver bullet" for vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. "But surely any new idea that could allow us to better deal with such difficult problems as vitamin deficiency among the poor deserves to be fully investigated," he said. Gordon Conway, the head of the US-based Rockefeller Foundation which provided funding for golden rice technology, said it was an excellent complement to fruits, vegetables and animal products. "Complete balanced diets are the best solution, but the poorer families are, the less likely is that their children will receive a balanced diet and the more likely they will be dependent on cheap food staples such as rice," he said. But Conway agreed that perhaps golden rice had been too hyped. "The industry's advertisements and the media in general seem to forget that it is a research product that needs considerable further development before it will be available to farmers and consumers," he said. (AFP)