A lawmaker has vowed a no let-up campaign to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country despite the recent government-issuance of a new set of guidelines on GMOs.
Rep. Fernando Hicap (Party-list, Anakpawis) said the approval of the new set of rules on the propagation and sale of GMOs only made him more resolute and determined to push for the approval of his bill prohibiting the use of products containing GMOs on food and agriculture.
Hicap said several studies have shown the harmful effects of genetically modified (GM) crops like the Bt (Basillus thuringionsis) corn on the health of farmers such as unusual high incidence of skin diseases, allergies, blood dyscrasias, infertility and seizures.
“Aside from these health risks, the GM corn farming contaminates traditional and open-pollinated corn varieties,” Hicap explained.
In House Bill 5699, Hicap said GMO crop proponents have always invoked adequate food production or the fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition as the ultimate goals for the introduction of such technology.
“Yet, is it a solution? Filipino farmers and scientists across the country assert that GMO in Philippine agriculture is not a solution but is in fact a serious problem,” Hicap said.
As stated in the bill, it shall be the policy of the State to protect and advance the right of the people to a safe and poison-free agriculture, health and livelihood security, and a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.
The measure further states the State shall follow the precautionary principle in relation to the field testing of genetically-engineered crops and the processing and distribution of seeds, crops and food products consisting of, containing or derived from GMOs so as to protect the people, the country’s agriculture and environment for the sake of present and future generations.
“The possible harmful effects of genetically modified crops and food on human health and environment are irreversible. Thus, the burden of proof as to the safe use of GMOs must be on the proponents of genetic engineering in agriculture,” Hicap said.
The proposal prohibits the release, laboratory and field-testing, processing, sale and similar acts, of crops and food products consisting of, containing or derived from GMOs.
But the said prohibition is not applicable to studies on crops and products containing GMOs by the independent panel of scientists to be selected and supervised by the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) and Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) together with concerned non-government and people’s organizations.
The bill likewise directs the NCBP, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA), FDA and NGOs involved in monitoring GMO crops and products to determine existing GMO products at its various levels under laboratory testing, pilot testing and multiple location testing.
The bill provides that if the said GMO crops and products are already into commercial distribution in the Philippines prior to the effectivity of the Act, the concerned agencies shall issue a list of said products to the public, make a precautionary risk assessment of the same and come out with recommendations on the proper disposition of such products.
The subsequent sale, processing, laboratory and field testing, release and similar acts, of such products in the list shall be prohibited indefinitely until such time that said products have been declared free from GMOs.
The bill creates a monitoring committee composed of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), DA, Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Bureau of Customs (BOC), NGOs and Pos to closely monitor the sale, processing of products, derived from genetically engineered organisms. The monitoring team shall recommend for disposition any product found to be containing genetically engineered organisms.
The penalty of a fine of P100,000 to P1 million and jail time of five years to 15 years shall be imposed on any person or persons violating the provisions of the Act.
The bill is pending at the Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza (4th District, Batangas).