Check NorthCot Environment Code first before allowing Bt Talong field testing

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/05 February) – An environmentalist-lawyer has urged legislators in North Cotabato to  look into the province’s Environment Code before they allow the field testing of a genetically-modified eggplant inside a state-owned university in Kabacan town.

In a forum on Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) Talongat the provincial capitol, lawyer Lilibeth Aruelo of the Third World Network cited an important provision of the Environment Code which states that the provincial government promotes environmentally-sound and economically-viable agricultural production system.

Aruelo’s Third World Network is a member organization of the Network Opposed to Genetically-Modified Organisms (NO2GMOs)

“If the plan to conduct field testing of fruit and shoot borer-resistant talong in North Cotabato takes place, this is in complete violation of the Environment Code of the province,” said Aruelo.

The provincial board passed its Environment Code on November 22, 2002.
The local government, she stressed, should uphold precautionary principles before any activity on genetic engineering of agriculture products could push through.

The main principles include the principle of prior informed consent; the right to say no; and national sovereignty in decision-making.

“Any project that will have adverse effects on health and environment should undergo mandatory public consultations.   Before the Sanggunian passes a resolution in relation to that, people should  be informed.  If they fail to do that, the field testing should not push through,” she stressed.

Aruelo also reminded local legislators that the country is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-Safety, a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

The protocol was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 2006.

She also said the country has also regulatory system for bio-tech products, including the national policy statement on modern bio-technology and the Executive Order 514 or the National Bio-Safety Framework, which was issued by former President Gloria Arroyo in March 2006.

The order was implemented due to rapid expansion of the use of modern technology and the growing concern over its potential impacts on the environment, human health, and social and cultural well-being.

The forum on Tuesday was part of the public consultation initiated by the provincial board, led by Cotabato 1st district board member Vicente Suropia, Jr., who chairs the Committee on Agriculture.

The consultation was the second since January.

The first was held two weeks ago at the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan town where two main proponents of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), Dr. Randy Hautea and wife Desiree, explained to participants the benefits and advantages of bio-engineered eggplant.

The USM is one of the seven approved sites for the multi-location field trial of BT talong in the country, according to Aruelo.

Suropia said during the forum that it is the policy of the Cotabato provincial government to hold consultations before they could come up with a resolution on BT talong field trial. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)