PUBLIC consultations on the crafting of a joint administrative order governing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been extended by government line agencies in order to address all concerns from stakeholders, especially small farmers and environment groups.
The extension was agreed upon by the departments of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Environment and Natural Resources, Health, and Interior and Local Government to allow concerned parties to hammer out the details of the joint circular, which should answer issues raised by the Supreme Court.
During the fifth public consultation held Wednesday, February 17, at the DA made sure that additional suggestions and recommendations were included to further improve the draft document.
The government agencies expect the joint circular on GMO rules to be signed February 23.
The joint administrative order will be based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement that aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.
The protocol was adopted in January 2000 and entered into force in September 2003.
In line with the legal mandate, after the said public consultation, the joint circular will also be submitted to the Office of the Solicitor General for their final recommendations.
Consultations were made following the order issued by the high court in December, which nullified all importations, applications, testing and commercialization of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology.
The SC earlier said that DA Order 08-2002 failed to meet the minimum requirements for safety under Executive Order 514, which requires a more transparent, meaningful and participatory public consultation on the conduct of field trials beyond the posting and publication of notices, consultations with some residents and government officials, and submission of written assessment and no socio-economic consideration.
The issuance of the joint circular is targeted before the end of the month while publication is set within the next 15 days after issuance.
The approval of the joint circular also aims to prevent a disruption in the food supply chain, especially for the feed milling industry, and this coincides with the poultry, livestock and aqua breeders as well.
The country’s feed milling industry, which supplies the local livestock, poultry and aqua breeders, are in a tight bind and could opt for the more expensive non-GMO sources, which could cost $80-$100 a ton.
The higher production costs for the producers will be passed on as higher prices of protein sources (pork, beef and chicken meat, eggs, fish) for Filipino consumers.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Philippine imports of soybean meal, which amount to around 2 million tons a year, mainly come from the U.S. Nearly all of the imports of the animal feed are genetically modified. The next big supplier is Argentina, but still GMO soybean meal, the report added.
Local yellow corn may be another source of feed ingredient, but in more than 12 years, the country’s robust corn production, which nears the 8 million metric tons self-sufficiency levels, had been dependent on GMO corn seeds, a report by the US Agricultural Service said.
Corn is the preferred feed grain by local end-users. However, only an estimated 15 percent of the domestic corn harvest is dried appropriately for feed use.
Local industry contacts report that, as a result, Philippine feed millers prefer imported corn grain to avoid aflatoxin contamination issues that could be detrimental to both human and animal health, the report added.