Tell It to SunStar: ‘Golden rice’ is irresponsible

By Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines

WE DENOUNCE the Bureau of Plant Industry’s (BPI) rubber stamp approval of genetically modified “golden rice” (GR) and called on the government agency to immediately reverse the faulty decision, which the environment group maintains is based on insufficient data.

The BPI’s approval of so-called “golden rice” is extremely irresponsible and completely misguided. We condemn the BPI’s systematic disregard of the precautionary principle and of robust data that clearly show that the safety assessments submitted by GR proponents are flawed. Rice is the Philippines’ primary staple; this is a foolish decision that will have far-reaching negative impacts on food and agriculture in the country.

Together with other environmental, farmer, consumer and scientist groups, we contend that the approval is invalid. Aside from the lack of transparency and adequate public participation that hounded the approval process, scientists contest that the submissions by GR proponents did not provide sufficient and convincing data on the safety of GR for human consumption and for the environment. However, despite these clear shortcomings and numerous responses from concerned citizens’ groups that disputed the incomplete data in the application, the BPI approved GR for release as food, feed and for processing on Dec. 10.

The approval process also failed to take into account the potential socio-economic impacts to farmers and indigenous peoples, as well as to local culture, ethics and risks to social cohesion. Filipino rice farmers are already reeling from a series of crop failures due to typhoons and droughts, as well as the impacts of the Rice Tarification Law, which has seen local rice prices plummet against the influx of imports. Yet, the assessment did not cover what the impact of GR will be on further loss of markets for farmers due to crop contamination from genetically modified species. Farmers, indigenous peoples, religious groups, youth, mothers and consumers have been opposing GR because of impacts on cultural and socio-economic stability, but these concerns were not put on the table.

The approval process for genetically modified organisms in the Philippines should provide standards for safety and security of our citizens and the food we grow and consume. But instead, the process discounts a lot of potential threats and is geared towards approval instead of safety.

Genetically modified “golden rice” neither addresses hunger nor malnutrition. At a time of climate emergency, the solution is resilient food and farm systems--diverse grains, fruits and vegetables for diverse diets and for food and nutrition security. Governments and philanthropists should be promoting programs that empower people to have access to and grow diverse fruit and vegetables, instead of listening to a few giant biotech corporations pushing unproven expensive techno-fixes and experimenting on the lives and livelihood of farmers, mothers and children.