19 December 2002
ENQUIRY NEEDED INTO MONSANTO CORN APPROVAL
Probe OK of 'Bt' corn, Bayan Muna solons urge
By RHODINA J. VILLANUEVA
TODAY Reporter [Philippines]
Party-list group Bayan Muna will appeal to Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo Jr. to hold his final approval of the commercialization of the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn in the country until controversial issues surrounding it are threshed out in an independent study on the impact of genetically modified crops to the environment, human health and food safety.
Party-list Reps. Satur Ocampo, Crispin Beltran and Liza Maza will join Marikina Rep. Del de Guzman in pushing for a congressional investigation into the government's decision to allow the commercial release of Bt corn in the country.
The legislators, in a resolution, Wednesday urged the House Committee on Agriculture to look into the December 4 recommendation of the Bureau of Plant and Industry allowing the commercial propagation of the Bt corn Yieldgard of Monsanto, an American transnational seed and biotechnology company.
They noted that persistent questions on the impartiality and transparency of the evaluation process and mounting opposition from the public merit a probe into the government regulators who evaluated the Bt corn variety andapproved its commercialization.
"The evaluation process was shrouded with charges that the government based its recommendations mainly on data supplied by Monsanto, while totally ignoring the train of scientific evidence showing that Bt corn may trigger a variety of environment food and health hazards," Ocampo explained.
He said the lawmakers cannot afford to underestimate the known and suspected environmental and human health risks inherent in the unproven technology of genetic engineering.
"Food safety is a core issue not only for players in the industry but consumers as well. It is the public's interest to hold the commercial release of Yieldgard pending an independent probe into its environmental and health impact."
De Guzman also questioned the transparency of the evaluation process. "Monsanto and BPI reportedly refused to divulge details of the evaluation by consistently invoking so-called confidential business information clauses to keep the inquiring public at bay."
In the resolution, the lawmakers warned the possibility that the Bt corn protein may be passed on to non-Bt corn plants in other fields through cross-pollination, or get mixed with non-Bt corn grains owing to nonlabeling or nonsegregation of genetically modified crops.
Bayan Muna had earlier filed House Bill 3381 seeking to suspend the entry, field-testing and propagation of genetically modified (GM) organisms pending an independent evaluation of its impact.
De Guzman, on the other hand, is the principal author of House Bill 1647 requiring the mandatory labeling of GM crops and GM-derived food products.