Tell it to SunStar: Scrap Golden Rice approval

IN A sly move that is characteristic of the GM (geneticall-modified) rice proponents including the various agencies in the Joint Department Circular (JDC), the direct use for food, feed and processing of the GM Golden Rice has been approved on Dec. 10 despite the staunch opposition from farmers and consumers in the Philippines.

We condemn the Golden Rice approval and the collusion among the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) and the Deptartment of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI).

This gravely threatens not only the health of the people and the environment, but also the future of rice production and farmers’ control of seeds.

Farmers and consumers in the Philippines and in other countries as well remain adamant that Golden Rice will not address the Vitamin A Deficiency among vulnerable sectors in developing countries, but is in fact a tool of the increasing corporate control over agriculture.

By harking on the humanitarian packaging of the Golden Rice, and marketing it as “healthier rice,” proponents are deceiving and blinding the people from the ulterior intention of Golden Rice, which is to usher in more GM food, such as soybean, cotton, potato and more varieties of GM corn.

According to IRRI’s website, research is also being conducted on high-iron and zinc rice in response to iron-deficiency anemia and stunting.

We are appalled that the approval has pushed through despite the numerous unresolved issues that we and many other organizations are raising regarding Golden Rice, mainly on its safety and long-term effects on children, women and other consumers.

We, along with other farmers’ groups, wrote the DA-BPI on Oct. 16 to discuss the consolidated risk assessment report and the comments from respected scientists including Dr. Chito Medina, Dr. David Schubert and Dr. Michael Antoniou, contesting the proponents’ claim on the safety of Golden Rice.

Up to now, proponents have failed to address concerns on the Golden Rice’s negligible beta-carotene content, its fast degradation and the possible toxicity associated with the beta-carotene degradation.

Instead, they hide behind the supposed “rigorous biosafety assessments” and the debatable safety clearances from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The lack of transparency and speed of approval of Golden Rice reeks of the desperation of IRRI, Philrice and DA-BPI to bring in the GM rice which has been gaining greater opposition because it is unnecessary and unwanted.

Such acts are in dissonance to the spirit of the JDC on transparency and public consultation. (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura)

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