Greenpeace Demonstration

September 24, 2007, Manila Times

Landmark court ruling vs. GMOs

It may not have landed on the front page, but a ruling issued recently by Branch 101 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City was a landmark decision nonetheless.

Following up on a temporary restraining order she issued earlier, RTC Judge Evangeline Marigomen stopped the Department of Agriculture from approving a rice strain derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which a multinational company is poised to commercially propagate in the Philippines.

Judge Marigomen’s preliminary injunction order is the latest development in an ongoing court case filed by the environmental group Greenpeace and the nongovernmental organization Searice.

The anti-GMO plaintiffs question the constitutionality of DA Administrative Order No. 8-2002, the government’s system for GMO approvals. The environment advocates have repeatedly asserted that the system is “hopelessly flawed” and violates basic constitutional rights.

Greenpeace helped file the court plea against the government’s policy on GMOs last August. The petition sought a permanent injunction on the approval of Bayer Cropscience Corporation’s genetically modified rice Liberty Link 62 whose application is being reviewed by the DA, through its Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

Bayer’s LL62 rice has been approved for commercial distribution only in the United States.

In her injunction order, Judge Marigomen said “a sampling of the petitioners’ evidence show that there is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights 1) to information of public concern, 2) protection and promotion of health, and 3) a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

Judge Marigomen’s injunction order is the first major ruling on GMOs in the Philippines since 2002 when the government allowed the entry of genetically altered crops.

Greenpeace and its co-petitioner Searice hailed the decision as a “major step forward” in the campaign to protect human health and ensure the safety of the environment from the adverse effects of GMOs.

“Greenpeace welcomes the court ruling and calls upon the Department of Agriculture to immediately scrap its current policy on GMOs,” said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia genetic engineering campaigner. “The DA has to prioritize the health and environment of the Filipinos. GMOs are not proven to be safe, and the current policy is patently biased and unacceptable.”

Added Ocampo: “We hope the injunction will compel the DA to review its agenda independent of pressures and the lure of kickbacks from the multinational GMO corporations.”

Ocampo explained that due to the nature of their petition, both the DA and Bayer Cropscience are respondents in the case. “However, it is exasperating to see that the agriculture department has abdicated its role altogether and left the entire defense of its policies to Bayer’s lawyers,” he said.

In the September 14 hearing before Judge Marigomen issued her injunction order, Bayer presented 17 arguments in defense of AO8.

“The Department of Agriculture is the government’s most important agency as it is responsible for the country’s basic food sources,” Ocampo said. “It cannot be run by profi­teering corporate interests.”

According to Greenpeace, the DNA of Bayer LL62 has been injected with genetic material from an entirely different organism to resist glufosinate, a powerful weed killer also produced by Bayer, which is meant to be used in conjunction with its rice strain.

Lagareng Hapon, as the old Tagalogs might have put it. “Kabig sa tulak, kabig sa hatak.”

Bayer filed an application with the BPI in August last year for the approval of LL62 in the Philippines. Greenpeace said it had repeatedly requested the BPI for official information regarding the application.

The DA and the BPI, however, have been quiet, Greenpeace reported. All both agencies have said is that the matter is under review and that Bayer has “complied” with the requirement to submit a “product information sheet” under AO 8.

If approved, Bayer LL62 will be the first genetically modified rice in the Philippines—which will also be the first country in the world to approve a genetically altered strain of its most important staple food crop.

The preliminary injunction will be in effect while the court case is ongoing. The next hearing on the Greenpeace-Searice petition is set for November 16.
By Dan Mariano

Genetics News, September 21, 2007

Court halts introduction of GM rice in the Philippines

A Philippine court has temporarily halted an application to bring genetically modified (GM) rice to the country, pending a study of possible health and environmental effects.

A temporary restraining order was issued yesterday (18 September) after Greenpeace, together with other nongovernmental organisations, challenged the Philippine government's right to approve Bayer Crop Science's LL62, a herbicide-tolerant type of hybrid rice.

The order prohibits the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) from approving Bayer's application to introduce LL62 for food, animal feed and the manufacture of other products.

A statement from the court said the order would "preserve the status quo until the merits of the case can be heard". No date has yet been set for the a new hearing.

Bayer submitted its application to BPI in August 2006. If eventually approved, it will be the first GM rice in the Philippines.

Environmental group Greenpeace filed its injunction on 23 August this year, citing several concerns over LL62, particularly the absence of public consultations, as required by the Philippine law. The injunction also pushes for a review of the approval process for GM plants in the country.

"It will be a big mistake to allow GM rice to enter our food supply. It has never been proven safe for human consumption and poses grave risks to the environment and to our health," said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner.

Agnes Lintao, policy officer for Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (Searice), another of the petitioners, said approval of LL62 would open the floodgates to further GM rice contamination in the Philippines and that the government should abandon all applications for GM organisms.

Bayer say the LL62 rice variety is safe for human consumption, and produces a protein conferring herbicide tolerance that is commercially available in Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States.

"Bayer Crop Science believes that this rice poses no harm on human health, food or feed. It has also been confirmed in many trials that it did not exhibit weedy characteristics, or negatively affect other organisms," said the company's communications manager, Reynaldo Cutanda. By Imelda Abano

October 08, 2007, Sun Star

GMO critics hail court for TRO on Bayer's application

KORONADAL CITY -- Religious leaders here hailed the recent decision of a Philippine court in issuing a temporary restraining order against the genetically modified rice produced by Bayer Crop Science, Inc.

Oblates of Notre Dame Sister Pat Babiera, justice and peace coordinator of the Diocese of Marbel, assailed Bayer for trying to introduce genetically modified rice variety Liberty Link 62 (LL62) in the country.

"Consistent with our advocacy stance for preserving the integrity of creation-we laud the temporary restraining order issued by a court stopping the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Plant Industry from approving the application of the genetically-modified rice Bayer LL62," she said in a statement.

Last month, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 101 Judge Evangeline Castillo Marigomen favored the injunction sought by environmental group Greenpeace.

"With the unfavorable publications and debates these genetically modified organisms have spawned, it is but prudent that the approval of the application of (Bayer) be restrained in the meantime considering that rice is a staple on the dining table of the Filipinos," her decision reads.

The injunction petition, which Greenpeace filed August 23, questioned the apparent lack of public voice and public consultation on GMO approvals by DA and BPI, particularly in the case of Bayer LL62's application.

Sister Babiera said it is "very risky" to allow genetically modified rice in the country, especially since Filipinos are rice consumers.

"We do not know yet the hazards that it will produce in our rice biodiversity, environment, and well-being," she added.

Babiera expressed fears that once LL62 is approved for commercial propagation in the country, the Philippines, which imports rice, could become a dumping ground of genetically-altered rice rejected by other countries.

She said they opposed the entry of genetically modified rice in the Philippines since the effects of another transgenic crop, the Bacillus Thuringiensis corn, have not been fully determined.

"And now here comes the genetically-modified rice with also unknown implications on human health, biodiversity, food security and farmers' livelihood," the nun said.

Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner in Southeast Asia, said that if Bayer's application for LL62 is approved, "the entry of GMO rice in the Philippines will irrevocably alter the future of the Filipinos' most important staple food."

He said the group filed the petition also because Bayer's application "will put our rice under further control of greedy corporate interests."

LL62 is rice with DNA injected with genetic material from an entirely different organism to resist a powerful weed killer, glufosinate, also produced by Bayer.

Bayer reportedly filed the application with the BPI in August last year for the approval of its GMO rice in the Philippines.

It filed the application at the height of the biggest genetic contamination case concerning United States rice supply.

Aug. 31, 2007

Philippine Court Stops GMO Rice Import

MANILA, Philippines — A court has ordered a temporary hold on an application to bring genetically modified rice into the Philippines, pending a study of possible health and environment hazards, court documents and activists said Friday.
A regional trial court in suburban Quezon City issued the temporary restraining order after the environmental group Greenpeace asked it to stop Bayer Philippines Inc., the local affiliate of German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer, from introducing the LL62 rice variety.
Considering debate on genetically modified organisms, it would be prudent to restrain the company from introducing LL62 in the Philippines, where rice is a staple food, according to the order Wednesday from Judge Evangeline Castillo Marigomen.
The order prohibits the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Plant Industry - also named respondents in the case - from approving Bayer's application for 20 days. The court set a Sept. 14 hearing on Greenpeace's petition for a preliminary injunction.
"Greenpeace believes that the pending application of a genetically altered rice to be used for food, feed and processing in our country is a very serious issue of public concern," Greenpeace campaigner Daniel Ocampo said in a statement. "The entry of GMO rice in our country will irrevocably alter the future of our most important staple food."
The petition for injunction, filed last week, questions the lack of public consultation on GMO approvals by the two government agencies, particularly in the case of Bayer LL62's application.
Last year, U.S. farmers sued Bayer's CropScience unit after its genetically modified rice LL601 contaminated regular rice in the U.S., causing rice prices to drop.
The German Agriculture Ministry also confirmed that LL601 rice was found in stores in Germany's leading supermarket chain, which removed the affected brand from its shelves. The modified rice is illegal in the European Union.
The USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with food regulators in Britain, the Netherlands and Canada, have all said that LL601 poses no harm to human health. By TERESA CEROJANO

THE INQUIRER (Philippines), August 23, 2007

Greenpeace seeks injunction vs GMO rice

MANILA -- The environmental group Greenpeace and the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (Searice) filed Thursday a petition for injunction with the Quezon City trial court against the use of genetically-modified rice that is pending approval by the government.

The petition questions the constitutionality of for the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Administrative Order 8, series of 2002, which sets the guidelines for the approval and use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

Greenpeace and Searice are also seeking a temporary restraining order against the approval by the DA and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) of the GMO rice called Bayer LL62 for commercial use.

The petition cited several concerns regarding the use of LL62, particularly the absence of public consultations as required by the Philippine Constitution, particularly Article 3, Section 7, which recognizes people’s rights in matters of public concern.

The groups questioned the timing of Bayer’s application for LL62 in August 2006, which was the height of the controversy in the US over the contamination of rice crops there with Bayer’s LL601 GMO rice.

Greenpeace, in particular, said it requested for official information about Bayer’s application but said both the DA and BPI have yet to answer.

Both Greenpeace and Searice say approval of LL62 will make the Philippines the first country in the world to approve a genetically-altered food crop.
Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner Danny Ocampo described the system for GMO approval in the country as “hopelessly flawed” because it excludes public representation in such matters.

"How much do Filipinos know about this, and what voice do they have in such a process? Very little. And yet, for the whole country, the impending approval of this genetically altered rice will certainly be an alarming precedent that will irrevocably alter the future of our most important staple food," Ocampo said.

Ocampo also told that the BPI has not rejected any of the 44 applications for GMOs, in particular four applications for the propagation in the Philippines pf GMOs -- BT11, Bt corn, roundup-ready and a strain that is a combination of Bt corn and roundup-ready.

He also said the petition would push a review of the approval process for GMO plants in the country. By Alexander Villafania

more information:
Bishop warns v. consumption of genetically enhanced rice
Open Letter to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)