30 April 2003
Hunger strikers vs GMO on 9th day
Hunger strikers enter their ninth day of fasting Tuesday in front of the Department of Agriculture compound in Quezon Memorial Circle in an attempt to build pressure on agriculture authorities for a moratorium on the commercial introduction of genetically modified food.
Four hunger strikers -- two men and two women -- have maintained a steady diet of water-and-juice only since April 22, as a protest for the decision of the Department of Agriculture last December to allow companies as Monsanto to sell genetically modified cord seeds in the Philippine market.
The strikers allege that genetically modified corn, or the Bt corn, poses a potential risk to people's health, native corn crops and the environment, and therefore be subjected to a moratorium until all its safety, environmental, health and economic concerns are resolved.
Adverse conditions in the strikers' camp show on the increasingly gaunt faces of the strikers, who have to contend with smog, the heat and the lack of facilities. The hunger strikers are Roberto Verzola of the Philippine Greens, Luisita Esmao of Pakisama, and Mark Cervantes and Arma Bertuso, both of South East Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment.
The strike started with nine participants, but some had to stop due to physical symptoms such as lightheadaches and ulcers.
Sympathy strikers are expected to join in the next few days. Bystanders and supporters have been attracted to the strikers' camp, some bringing water, juices and other forms of support. Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, in a mass at the strikers' camp, Tuesday said that the protest against the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) enjoys "wide support," and lauded the strikers for building up the movement against GMOs and "inspiring others to intensify their opposition to it."
The strike is indefinite, according to the strikers, until the government withdraws the permit it issued Monsanto in December to propagate and market BT corn. ---
Please send your letters in support of the hunger strikers to the
Secretary of Agriculture Luis "Cito" Lorenzo, (email: