Is the foreign group Greenpeace out to kill Filipino farmers’ hopes to end their dependence on deadly and expensive pesticides?
Not a few friends raised this question after the Europe-based pressure group appeared to have scored a significant legal victory in its long-running war against Filipino scientists. We learned that Greenpeace put one over the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB)-based researchers when it secured a resolution from the Court of Appeals (CA) stopping the field testing of a plant variety called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) talong (eggplant).
Bt talong is a plant variety developed through biotechnology. It has a built-in ability to combat major eggplant pests. Because of this natural resistance, farmers who plant this variety no longer have to rely on toxic chemicals to produce more and better quality eggplants. Farmers are also able to increase their income because they can spend less on expensive pesticides. And since they are seldom exposed to these poisonous substances, farmers get sick less often. This translates to substantial savings on medical expenses for our already impoverished farmers.
According to a study by a government research agency, our farmers normally apply frequent and heavy doses of pesticides in futile attempt to control eggplant pests. Many farmers spray their eggplant two or more times a week; some even spray 60 – 80 times during the production period. There’s so much pesticide being (bought and) used that the amount spent on these deadly chemicals adds up to almost one-third of a farmer’s production costs.
Reducing pesticide use will spare ordinary consumers like us from having to eat vegetables varnished with unseen toxic chemicals, especially with recent scientific findings that washing removes only about 75 percent of the pesticide residue in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. We can only imagine how much of this synthetic poison are already in our internal organs.
But the European pressure group sees things differently. Greenpeace believes plant varieties that are not sprayed with pesticides are bad for people and for the environment.
The way we see it, plant varieties that don’t have to be sprayed with chemical pesticides are bad for the business of those who make them. That many of them are Europe-based is probably just a matter of coincidence. Of course.
Greenpeace has been waging war against the UPLB science community since time immemorial on the issue of biotechnology. Our Filipino scientists will have to live with the fact that Greenpeace’s operatives will never let them out of their sight.
No matter how noble our scientists’ motives might be for advancing the cause of pesticide-free food, they have to realize that their initiatives are harmful to the environmen—to the European business environment, that is.
Many observers note that Greenpeace—which promotes itself as a pro-environment group—has never said anything about the fatal effects that chemical pesticides bring about. Some say Greenpeace’s assault on the initiatives of Filipino scientists evokes images of radical left-leaning groups who howl against the occasional visit of United States warships to Subic but who turn a blind eye to the daily incursion of Chinese fishing and war vessels into Philippine waters.
The observation may be valid after all. It likewise baffles us why a pressure group like Greenpeace could banner itself as a champion of the environment when it has never lifted a finger to oppose the use of toxic chemicals. We wonder if Greenpeace operatives here can look the Filipino farmer straight in the eye and tell him that the toxic pesticides he sprays on his crops is safer than planting non-pesticide dependent plant varieties.
The other observation is that Greenpeace’s win at the CA is not really just against its nemesis, the Filipino science community.
It is a victory against every Filipino’s freedom of choice.
It’s against the Filipino farmers’ freedom to choose which plant variety they want to sow in their farms. It’s about their freedom to choose between pesticide-dependent plant varieties or those that have built-in natural resistance to pests such as Bt talong and other varieties developed through biotechnology.
It’s against the Filipino consumers freedom to choose the kind of food they want to put into their bodies—either those laced with pesticides or those that are not.
While we respect the CA’s decision, we believe the losing party, in this case the Filipino scientists of UPLB, should pursue other legal remedies such as a motion for reconsideration in order to uphold that very basic freedom—the right to choose.
We also wish that we Filipinos would be free from the fear being planted in our hearts by well-funded pressure groups who have access to humongous funding, to media and to our courts.