• Labor warns vs lobbying of beverage firms

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    BACOLOD CITY: The lead convenor of a labor-based group here opposing the unabated entry of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has warned against unwarranted interventions of beverage and softdrink companies as the Sugar Board is set to meet on February 17

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    In a statement, Winnie Sancho of the Save-Sugar Industry Movement (Save-SIM), said their group currently views with “guarded optimism” deliberations to be held in Ormoc City (Leyte) on HFCS.

    He said their group’s only hope is that the decision of the four members of the Sugar Board headed by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol will not be affected by the interference of “lobbyists” of soft drink manufacturers.

    The group will also turn over their own position paper to lawyer Anna Rosario Paner, SRA administrator, and propose a “win-win” solution, Sancho added.

    Sugar industry leaders said that from 2011 to 2016, beverage makers and food processors imported almost 800,000 metric tons of HFCS into the country, displacing the demand for 23 million 50-kilo bags of locally produced sugar and depriving the country, particularly the sugar industry, of P35.2 billion in potential income.

    On the claim of FEMSA-Coca Cola Philippines that they are using domestic sugar as well as HFCS with no genetically modified organism, Sancho said “HFCS is associated with obesity, diabetes and high-blood pressure.”

    ”These are findings of the medical research,” he noted.

    Meanwhile, provincial Board Member Alain Gatuslao said he is waiting for the position papers of various stakeholders in the sugar industry for reference by the Sanggunian Panlalawigan in formulating its own resolutions.

    Gatuslao, chairman of the SP Committee on Laws, said the SP is in the process of amending the ordinance banning genetically modified organisms.

    The first amendment approved for first reading seeks to include HFCS as a possible “watchlist item” in the fight against GMOs.

    Initially, Gatuslao said the province wants food and beverage companies that distribute items related to HFCS to submit certifications that the corn syrup they are using does not contain any GMO.

    “We will also ask the governor to increase the amount of appropriation from only P200,000 since its passage in 2007 to create a team that will really concentrate on monitoring the entire province,” he added.

    It would then depend on the governor if the province will subject the certification submitted by private companies to confirmatory tests.

    Sugar industry leaders may also do laboratory tests and use the ordinance to file charges against companies found to have GMOs in their products, Gatuslao said.

    He added that the ordinance will be enforced as soon as implementing rules and regulations are approved.

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