Errol Abada Gatumbato

Don’t amend Negros ordinance banning GMOs –, Philippine News for Filipinos

Few years back, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Occidental had passed an ordinance banning the entry of GMOs in the province.  The Sangguniang Panlalawigan is now reconsidering such landmark local legislation to give way for the entry of GMOs in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines. The Philippine Network of Food and Security Programme appeals:

Don’t amend Negros ordinance banning GMOs –, Philippine News for Filipinos

Applying precautionary principle

By: Errol A. Gatumbato

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Occidental is now deliberating a controversial issue on genetically modified organism or commonly known as the GMO.  The on-going discussion is triggered by the move to reconsider the earlier position of the SP in banning the introduction of GMO in Negros Occidental province.  Recently, the SP invited several experts to shed lights over the possible effects and impacts of GMO, particularly on humans and environment.  There was no final decision yet, as additional experts are expected to provide more insights.

The issue on GMO is now being debated not only in Negros Occidental but in the entire world, especially in forums involving natural resources management.  Proponents of GMO are claiming that this state of the art discovery responds to the need for a much higher agricultural productivity to feed the ballooning population of the world.  The GMO was pioneered to several agricultural crops, particularly potato and corn, by some multi-national corporations involved in food productions. It is an organism that has been genetically modified or altered through genetic engineering techniques.

Many claimed that GMO has no effects at all to health and environment.  However, there are also contrary opinions because some researchers lament that in fact some indications on the negative impacts of the GMO to both plant and animal species are already noted in some areas. Both opposing and supporting groups to GMO are conducting intensive investigations on this man-made intervention to organism in supporting their arguments.

I will not present facts and figures on the impacts of this GMO, either positive or negative, but would rather invoke the “precautionary principle” in dealing with this issue.  This principle emanated from conservation community to ensure that any program, project and/or concept of which impacts are not clearly illustrated shall not be allowed to proceed.  The lack of information and knowledge for instance, and unavailability of concrete evidence to prove that a particular development has either positive or negative effects are justification to say no to such intervention. Since we are dealing with a very sensitive issue that may have a long-term impact, it is very important that decision-makers shall be cautious and critical about the GMO.

The advancement of science has already led to invention of numerous high valued crops to increase food production.  However, most if not all of these high valued crops require intensive use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides that are very hazardous to health and environment. The multi-national corporations engaged in manufacturing fertilizers and pesticides actually benefitted from this development. The introduction of high valued crops, like rice and vegetables, also eradicated some native species, which are most appropriate in local conditions. Moreover, the extensive use of lands for high valued crops and the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides have declined soil fertility.

The other issue we are facing is the proliferation of invasive species because of the notion before that some species, especially those coming from other countries, are more productive and useful compared to local species. In effect, some introduced or exotic species proliferated in some areas, resulting to biological pollution and occurrence of pest. And come to think of it that the introduction of exotic species did not involve any genetic modification but it has created negative impact to the environment, how much more an organism that has been genetically altered when introduced?

There are also questions on the introduction of GMO in Negros Occidental in terms of purpose and intent.  Is it aimed to increase food production in the province for its internal use or for exports? Is the food production and supplies in Negros Occidental are already insufficient that we need to introduce GMO in our agricultural development? What is the implication of GMO introduction to the priority agenda of the province in promoting organic food production and to become a prime production area for organically grown food? If the production of GMO is intended for export, how much will the province and local farmers profit and benefit from it? Is the province and its people are also prepared in the event that negative effects will arise from the introduction of GMO?

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September 9, 2009 - Posted by | Genetically Modified Organisms

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