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Sun Star Manila, February 16, 2007

Bishop warns v. consumption of genetically enhanced rice

MANILA Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has asked the government to recall and stop the selling of genetically-enhanced rice products from the US that pose health risks to humans and to the environment.

Rosales, in a letter sent to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last February 9, asked Arroyo to take back from the supermarkets the Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice, which is being distributed by Purefeeds Inc.

"We believe that we should strongly oppose any experiment or attempt to use genetically engineered foods that are not safe or good to the environment. We should feed our people with food that are produced through natural means," Rosales said.

The cardinal endorsed the petition of the ecology desk of the Archdiocese of Manila and signed by 2,000 people who raised several issues on the entry and sale of genetically-made products in the Philippines.

Aside from the withdrawal of the products, the cardinal also demanded that a moratorium be imposed on the importation of genetically-modified rice from the US; require the agriculture department to do mandatory testing of imported rice and urgently stop the propagation of genetically-enhanced food products; and certify as an urgent bill the mandatory labeling of all imported, processed food products.

"As a church institution, we have a moral obligation to protect the interest of God's people and their inherent right to safe food and healthy environment. Independent and environmentally-concerned local and international scientists already warned that genetically-modified crops and food products could be very harmful to the environment and to human beings," said the cardinal who was recently named as one of Pope Benedict XVI's economic advisers. (MSN/Sunnex)

Press Release, March 31 2007

Greenpeace slams 'do nothing policy' on GMO threat

Greenpeace Genetic-Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo said:
“Secretary Yap’s statement to withdraw the approval of genetically-modified corn, MON 863, shows that the administration is waking up to the dangers posed by genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Following his statement, the Secretary should act on it immediately. The logical next step for the DA is to assure the repeal and withdrawal of all other authorized GMO crops and products in the country, starting with rejection of Bayer's application for the LL62 GMO rice variety, which if approved will signal the entry of GMO rice in the country's food chain and will result in disastrous consequences to our most important food crop.

“Twenty-eight other GMO crops have been approved in the Philippines. But, as the MON863 case shows, a GMO’s approval for human consumption is not a guarantee of its safety. No GMO has ever undergone long-term testing, nor has been conclusively proven to be safe for human consumption. Bayer LL62, for instance, is not approved anywhere else in the world except in the US where it contaminated long grain rice stocks now being rejected by the rest of the world.

“As with all other GMOs, Bayer LL62, genetically-modified to resist a powerful weed-killer, poses inherent risks to human health and the environment. GMOs threaten biodiversity, food security, farmers' livelihoods, and consumers' choice. Moreover, their long-term effects on soil, animals, plants and human health are still unknown. GE crops and seeds, when released into the environment, also inevitably lead to genetic contamination of non-GMO agriculture and the food chain.

“The clear message then is that the government must reject GMOs and instead look toward a future of farming and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food.”

Notes to Editor
MON 863 is corn genetically manipulated to produce its own insecticide called 'modified Cry3Bb1' to kill rootworm insects in the soil, and contains gene coding for antibiotic resistance. A French study entitled 'New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity,' published earlier this month in the scientific journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology" shows that significant health risks were associated with the GMO corn despite its approval in the European Union.

In the Philippines, 25 GMO crops (including corn, soybean, sugar beet, alfalfa, potato, and cotton) have been approved by the BPI for direct use in food, feed, and processing, while four GMO corn crops are approved for propagation. Twenty-four of the 29 GMOs approved in the country are owned by Monsanto.

An application for food, feed and processing for the GMO rice Bayer LL62 is currently being reviewed by the Bureau of Plant Industry, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture. Bayer LL62 is rice genetically-manipulated to resist the powerful weed-killer glufosinate which is meant to be used in conjunction with the said GMO crop.

February 12, 2007, Greenpeace

Philippines: Greenpeace moves to block GMO rice approval in the country

Manila - Greenpeace today moved to block Bayer's application for the approval of the genetically-modified (GMO) rice LL62 for "direct use in food, feed, and processing" in the country at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Malate. Questioning the expected approval of the GMO rice strain by the bureau's Scientific and Technical Review Panel, the environmental group is set to submit a comprehensive dossier opposing GMOs, particularly the genetically-engineered (GE) Liberty Link (LL) rice, to oppose Bayer's move to legalize LL62 for human consumption.

"If the GMO Bayer LL62 is approved, its impact on our most important food crop would be disastrous. GMO rice is risky. It poses even greater risks to the Philippines, a rice-eating country. It will threaten our rice biodiversity and compromise the environment and human health. Moreover, Bayer's GMO rice has already caused massive financial damage to the global rice industry. It will be a big mistake to allow GMO rice to enter our food supply," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

Bayer's herbicide-resistant LL rice strain figured in a rice scandal of global proportions last year. In July 2006, Bayer LL601, an experimental GMO that was not approved for commercial distribution or human consumption in any place in the world, was found to have contaminated the world's food chain. The news elicited strong reactions from rice farmers and processors, as well as governments. Bayer faced a class-action lawsuit filed by hundreds of US farmers, and Japan, EU, and Russia responded with import restrictions. The incident also prompted rice producers and exporters in the US, EU, and Asia to commit to GMO-free production and trade. In the Philippines, the Department of Agriculture (DA) prohibited future GMO rice imports, and assigned a team in the US to test possible contamination in shipments to the Philippines.

After the global contamination, Bayer belatedly applied for the approval of LL601 from the US Department of Agriculture, presumably to limit its liability for the incident. Although now approved in the US, Bayer shows no signs of intending to commercialize the LL601. The said GMO rice, however, remains unapproved in the rest of the world, including in the Philippines where Greenpeace revealed it continues to be openly sold in local supermarkets. Bayer LL62, the GMO rice pending approval at the BPI, is a variety similar to LL601.

Greenpeace asserts that the approval of Bayer LL62 will open the floodgates to further GMO rice contamination in the Philippines. LL62 has been granted approval for cultivation, and use in food and feed in only one country, the US. GMO rice, however, is currently facing global consumer rejection. Once LL62 is approved in the country, the Philippines, a net importer of its most important food staple, could become the dumping ground of GMO rice rejected by the rest of the world. Further, the entry of GMO rice will make widespread GMO contamination within the country probable. GMO rice could outcross wild and native varieties, which could eventually lead to their extinction.

LL62 also poses health risks. LL62 is genetically-modified to resist the powerful herbicide glufosinate, which is meant to be used in conjunction with the GMO crop. With LL62, usage levels for this herbicide will increase, also increasing the likelihood of glufosinate residues on the rice itself. Glufosinate has been observed to cause adverse health effects in animals, causing nervous system and birth defects. Increased use of the herbicide could likewise increase nitrate leaching, and can poison beneficial soil micro-organisms.

"Since last year, Greenpeace has repeatedly alerted the DA about the presence in the market of GMO-tainted LL601 rice banned for human consumption. Up to now, the DA has yet to act on that issue. But what is more shocking is that while the rest of the world is rejecting GMO rice, the DA is unashamedly entertaining its approval--a move that will threaten our environment, our health, and our economy," said Ocampo.

"Greenpeace is urging not just the DA--but all Filipinos--to reject GMO rice outright. Rice is life. GMO rice, a dangerous and unwanted technology, must never become a reality," he added.

15 Feb 2007

Philippines reviews GMO rice bid from Bayer

MANILA, Feb 15 - The Philippines said on Thursday it was reviewing an application by a division of Bayer AG for the domestic sale of genetically modified (GMO) rice for food and animal feed.
The Bureau of Plant Industry is checking the safety of the GMO rice of Bayer CropScience known as LLRICE 62, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap told reporters. "We are still reviewing the application," he said.
A government scientist said the application by Bayer would allow the Philippines to import GMO rice for food, feed and processing but not for planting.
The GMO rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of a herbicide used to kill weeds.
The Philippines was the first country in Asia to commercialise GMO corn in 2002. The country has since allowed about 20 varieties of GMO corn to be imported, of which two could be planted by local farmers, a scientist at the Bureau of Plant Industry said. The same scientist said that the GMO rice application from Bayer has been pending since August 2006.
Environmentalist, consumer groups and even some church leaders have warned the government against allowing the entry of GMO rice due to fears of its effect on health and the environment. "Rice is a staple food and source of livelihood of more than 50 million farmers in our country, with roots in our own culture and traditions and thus should be taken with utmost care," Agnes Lintao, policy officer at NGO group SEARICE said in a statement.
"The approval will allow the first genetically modified rice into the country, and would thus set a precedent," SEARICE said.
Last week, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales asked the government to look into the sale of GMO rice in local stores and stop the import of rice from the United States. "We believe that we should strongly oppose any experiment or attempt to use genetically engineered food that are not safe or good to the environment," Rosales said in a letter to Arroyo, a copy of which was released by his office. "We should feed our people with food that are produced through natural means."