14 May 2003
American continues hunger strike vs Bt corn
By Harley F. Palangchao
FORMER American Peace Corps volunteer Andrew Haralam, who is on a hunger strike for six days now against Bt corn, vowed to indefinitely continue his protest until Malaca?ang orders a moratorium on the distribution of the GMO-type product.
"I have decided to continue with the hunger strike until President Arroyo orders the Department of Agriculture to stop the distribution of Bt corn," vowed Haralam, who remains strong despite drinking water and mango juice since he started the hunger strike at the Malcolm Square.
Haralam added he was informed that Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo is to meet with Arroyo in Malaca?ang Wednesday to discuss what actions the government would implement amid the snowballing protest against the Bt corn.
The DA approved the Bt corn, which was introduced and patented by the US multinational Monsato, for commercial release in December last year. Although it was approved for commercial release, Haralam revealed that environmentalists in the country and abroad lobbied for the non-distribution of the GMO-type product.
Green Peace, an environmental activists group in Baguio, meanwhile launched a signature campaign against the Bt corn as one way to support Haralam's cause. The activists hope to garner thousands of signatures.
Over the weekend, Haralam warned that the GMO-type product causes stomach and colon cancers, birth defects, and neurodevelopment disorders, claiming that these side effects are irreversible. "Please do not contaminate this beautiful land with poison, either with the chemical or the genetically engineered variety," Haralam begged Malaca?ang.
He added, "As an environmental activist, I am protesting the introduction of Bt corn in an effort to protect the ecosystem in general and preserve the indigenous strains of corn in particular." Haralam expressed optimism that a ban on Bt corn in the country would set a precedent for other Asian countries to oppose it and other GMOs. The former Peace Corps volunteer, who tills a one-hectare farm in Buguias, Benguet, said Americans and Mexicans are now suffering from the ill-effects of Bt corn since the GMO type product was introduced in these countries.