The statement is in response to the Editorial published by the Manila Bulletin on January 17, 2012 entitled “Boosting the Country’s Food Security”. It says, the Philippines will be the launch pad for the marketing of Golden Rice by 2013. The launch is seen to boost global food security and reduce malnutrition.
The Philippines was the first to commercialize the genetically modified Bacillus thuringiensis corn in Asia in 2002. It will once more set off to commercialize Golden Rice to help reduce mortality due to Vitamin A deficiency that afflicts children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers nationwide.
The Resistance and Solidarity against Agrochem TNCs (RESIST) said there is nothing to be proud of with the Golden Rice. We do not need golden rice. Rice is our staple food. Why are we going to risk it using a product that has been modified and has the potential to harm? Should biotechnology experts established the safety of golden rice, there are still questions regarding the availability of beta-carotene in golden rice.
“There is no scientific evidence that golden rice can answer the problem of malnutrition and blindness due to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). It is merely a public promotion of scientists and agrochemical corporations to easily accept genetic engineering. The development and promotion of Golden Rice illustrate an industrial model of agriculture that limits bio-diversity and lessens dietary diversification, which primarily causes malnutrition,” said Dr. Chito Medina, RESIST Co-convenor and National Coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmer and Scientist for the Development of Agriculture).
“Besides, the body needs fats or oils and other nutrient for Vitamin A to be absorbed by the body, but for poor families they don’t have access to this type of diversified diet. How much ß-carotene degrades during storage? How much ß-carotene remains after cooking? There is no systematic data available,” added Medina.
“Moreover, since golden rice appears to be an expensive and dangerous experiment, why not instead promote the consumption of natural sources of beta-carotene to reduce Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD)?, remarked Medina.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tried and tested remedies for Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) have already ‘averted an estimated 1.25 million deaths since 1998 in 40 countries’, thus, the solution to VAD lies in food diversification and sustainable agriculture, the statement said.
“We fear that the field tests of Golden Rice might pose environmental risks such as the possibility that golden rice might cross-pollinate with the rice varieties already approved for consumption. Another fear is that after International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) conducted field trials and other evaluations, regulatory agencies may quickly approve golden rice as early as 2013 and ignore studies raising safety issues, said Wilfredo Marbella, RESIST Co-convenor and deputy secretary general of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
We’ve expressed our fears and concerns in several dialogues we had in 2011 with the Department of Agriculture, National Commission on Bio-Safety of the Philippines (NCBP), Philrice and other concerned agencies, especially on the risk assessment reports on its effect in the environment and health, yet they seems to hear nothing,” stressed Marbella.
The statement is quoting Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist of the Consumers Union based in New York, who had been in a speaking tour in Manila and Isabela from August 20 to 25, 2011 on the controversial Golden Rice. The event was hosted by RESIST, MASIPAG,AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), Task Force Indigenous Peoples (TFIP), Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP), KMP, Anakpawis partylist, Bayan Muna Partylist, NNARA-Youth and other groups. He said, “when beta-carotene is in the gut, it is “cleaved in half to generate retinal, which can be reduced to retinol (vitamin A), or oxidized to retinoic acid.” What is worrying is that “retinoic acid and its metabolites are toxic and teratogenic.” “Teratogenic” means a chemical or element that is able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus.”
“Local seed varieties are more suitable and adapted to the environment and climate, which assures the farmers of better yields. Organic fertilizers from plants, and livestock are a safer means to enrich the soil and rice crop. Also, we can get beta-carotene from red rice, mangoes, yellow corn, papaya, carrots, red curry peppers, cabbage, spinach, leafy vegetables, sweet potato, etc.,” ended Medina.
“The development of Golden Rice will pave the way for the legitimization and widespread control of TNCs in agriculture and food by patenting seeds and varieties. The problem of malnutrition and hunger is caused primarily by the lack of access to land and food resulting to terrible poverty,” according to Marbella.
“Farmers’ rights should be safeguarded against the negative effects of globalization including the excessive power and influence of TNCs. Intellectual property rights and genetic engineering may compromise farmers’ ability to produce food. We need genuine land reform to address hunger and poverty. The truth is there is nothing to celebrate with golden rice,” ended Marbella.
RESIST Co-convenor and
KMP Deputy Secretary General
Mobile number: 09153667290
Dr. CHITO MEDINA
RESIST Co-convenor and
MASIPAG National Coordinator
Mobile number: 09175442196