EXTRACT: "We just stumbled upon the application for LL62," explains Danny Ocampo, the Southeast Asia Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner, in an earlier interview. That is why, he said, the suit questions as well the entire approval process followed by the BPI for all GMOs, with no public consultation held, and the citizens' right to information ignored, if not suppressed altogether.
Who's the willing puppet?
By Rina Jimenez-David
The Inquirer (Philippines), 09/16/2007
ANOTHER SKIRMISH HAS BEEN WON IN THE long, complicated struggle against the introduction of genetically-modified rice in this country.
As the Inquirer reported Saturday, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court has issued a temporary restraining order against the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). The order prevents the government bodies from approving the application of Bayer Philippines to use LL62, a GMO or genetically modified organism, also known as Liberty Link Rice 62, for food, animal feed and processing.
Behind the petition against LL62 is Greenpeace, which filed the suit, together with other "concerned citizens," in the belief that the approval of LL62 for "food, feed and processing" is Bayer's way of introducing GMO rice through the backdoor. The Department of Agriculture has already officially shut the door on US rice imports, all of which are suspected of having been contaminated by genetically modified breeds because of widespread field trials there.
"We just stumbled upon the application for LL62," explains Danny Ocampo, the Southeast Asia Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner, in an earlier interview. That is why, he said, the suit questions as well the entire approval process followed by the BPI for all GMOs, with no public consultation held, and the citizens' right to information ignored, if not suppressed altogether.
So far, says Ocampo, they know of 44 applications for the use of GMOs here, 40 of which are for use as "food, feed and processing," and four for propagation. "On average, approval is granted four or six months after an application is filed." This is why the process is called an "approval process," Ocampo notes. He adds that in other countries, notably Thailand and Vietnam which are also the world's biggest exporters of rice, authorities have adopted "very strict policies to protect their rice and subject all GMO applications to very stringent tests."
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WHY the big to-do over GMO rice?
"Genetically modified organisms" are living things which have been modified or changed by the manipulation of their genes, specifically of their DNA. This is why the modified organisms are not just "improvements" over the originals, but entirely new organisms, and as yet no long-term studies have been conducted on their impact not just on their kind, but on those who ingest what some have called "Frankenstein food" or "frankenfood."
Last year, Greenpeace raised a stink over the importation of "Uncle Sam Long Grain Rice" from the United States. This was tested and found to be a GMO. Even if the "Uncle Sam" rice were in bags and sacks, Greenpeace contended, it could still contaminate the other rice stocks in supermarkets around the country. Ocampo says he talked with Shopwise, the supermarket arm of retailing giant Rustan’s, and the management agreed to voluntarily recall the "Uncle Sam" rice. The owners of Gokongwei-owned Robinson’s replied that they would wait for orders from the National Food Authority, while Shoemart ignored Greenpeace completely; to use Ocampo’s term, "dinedma kami." But Ocampo notes that a "New Uncle Sam" long grain rice has appeared once more in supermarket shelves, allegedly a GMO-free strain from Thailand.
The NFA has also restricted all rice imports from the United States, demanding that all importers issue a guarantee that their shipments are GMO-free. So far, though, no importer has been willing to certify the GMO-free status of their rice from the United States.
Also in town to follow events in the Greenpeace suit, among other concerns, is Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International rice campaigner, who is based in Australia. Ocampo tells me that Tager met with scientists and agriculturists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los BaÃ±os, as well as with those in PhilRice in Nueva Ecija for the latest developments in rice research, not necessarily involving genetic modification.
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NOW for a bit of glitz in the proceedings.
The petitioners in the suit against the DA and BPI were Von Hernandez, campaigns director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the following as "concerned citizens": Wilhelmina "Ditdit" Peregrina, executive director of the Southeast Asia Research Institute for Community Education (PhilRice); Sr. Arnold Maria Noel of the Ministry of Justice and Peace; Amanda Griffin and Angel Aquino, Greenpeace supporters and models/actresses; and Anna Theresa Licaros, a third year law student at UP Diliman and the current Binibining Pilipinas Universe.
At one hearing, Bayer’s lawyer (from the Accra law firm), while questioning Licaros, branded her and the other "concerned citizen" petitioners as "willing puppets" who "do not know a thing" about GMOs.
Licaros took umbrage at this statement, saying it was "patronizing and insulting," and has made her all the more convinced that GMOs present risks to the health of Filipinos.
Lawyering for Greenpeace in this case is Theodore Te, who teaches at UP Law and who is Licaros’ professor. And if joining with Greenpeace in a suit against GMOs makes one a "willing puppet," what does that make of lawyers arguing the case for a multinational seeking to sneak in GMO rice using a deceptive process?