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SC freezes promotion of altered rice, eggplant

April 21, 2023 Hector Lawas 213 views

THE Supreme Court has granted a writ of kalikasan filed by Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) and others seeking to block the commercial release of genetically modified rice and eggplant products.

In an en banc resolution, the court ordered respondents including the Secretaries of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, and Health, the Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and the University of the Philippines – Los Baños (UPLB) to file a verified return within 10 days from service.

On October 12, 2022, the petitioners, led by MASIPAG, filed a Petition for Writ of Kalikasan and continuing mandamus with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order before the Supreme Court.

They requested a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) that would direct the Department of Agriculture (DA) to (a) refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and issuing biosafety permits for commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant; (b) cease and desist from commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant until proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown; (c) declare all biosafety permits for Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant null and void; and (d) perform independent risks and impact assessments, obtain the prior and informed consent of farmers and indigenous peoples, and implement liability mechanisms in case of damage, as required by law.

The petitioners claimed that both Golden Rice and Bacillus thuringiensis Eggplant (Bt Eggplant) are genetically modified organisms.

They alleged that Golden Rice, patented to Syngenta, a transnational agrochemical corporation, is a rice variety modified by inserting a gene from maize and a gene from bacteria found in soil that allows the plant to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice.

They also argued that Bt Eggplant was designed to produce its own toxin, which would kill the fruit and shoot borer, a common pest that consumes and damages eggplants.