Position Paper on the DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular No. 1 series of 2016
Farmers under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) strongly disapprove of the process and content of the new Joint Department Circular on the Rules and Regulations for the Use, Research and Development, Handling, Transboundary Movement and release into the Environment of the Plant and Plant Products derived from the Use of Modern Biotechnology being railroaded by the government.
The Joint Department Circular only seeks to legitimize the plunder, monopoly and control of agrochemical transnational companies through Genetically Modified (GM) crops.
We raise and reiterate the following points:
- Under the guise of following the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Bt Eggplant case, the government, through the National Biosafety Committee of the Philippines (NBCP) has called for a series of consultations/meetings for the drafting of a new Joint Department Circular that will replace the Department of Agriculture’s Administrative Order No. 8 series of 2002 or the “Rules and Regulations for the Importation and Release into the Environment of Plant and Plant Products Derived from the Use of Modern Biotechnology.”
- Several years of legal case and strong national and international campaign pursued by Filipino farmers, consumer groups and advocates against the Bt Eggplant is considered by GM supporters as a stumbling block to the commercialization of GM research and local development of GM crops in the Philippines.
- The said consultations took place more than a month after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Bt Eggplant case and after the scientific community bombarded the Supreme Court decision with criticisms, going as far as branding the landmark ruling fought hard for and won by farmers, sustainable and organic agriculture advocates and consumer groups as ‘anti-development’ and ‘a setback for scientific research and development.’
- The said consultations in support of the crafting of a new Joint Department Circular were carried out hastily, without meticulous regard if the Supreme Court decision had been implemented, including the temporary ban of plant and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology including GMOs, GM crops and by products as well as relevant farm inputs like pesticides and fertilizers.
- As we have already pointed out, farmers and consumers have yet to and reap the fruits of their rigorous campaign and struggle against Bt Eggplant, GM crops and take advantage of the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the Precautionary Principle that effectively ordered the following: 1) Permanent banning of Bt eggplant field testings and the 2) Temporary banning of any new application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization, importation of GM crops including, but not limited to Bt Eggplant.
- It is evident why the government is fast-tracking the crafting of a new Joint Department Circular — because “import permits for specific GM products including animal feeds, soya, sorghum are set to expire this year, with one expiring next month and five more permits expiring later this year.” Traders and importers of GM products were quick to point out that a new circular be approved so as not disrupt the flow of imports because sourcing out non-GMO supply would be more costly for them. This only proves that the crafting of the new Joint Department Circular is in the best interest of traders and importers of GM products and not of farmers, consumers and the general public.
- Even before the government can draft a new Joint Department Circular, it also challenged the Supreme Court decision through a Motion for Reconsideration shortly after the issuance of the ruling. It is also insulting to farmers and consumers that while there is a temporary ban imposed on new applications and importation of GM products, local and foreign traders, importers and animal feed millers can continue to ship in GMO products as long as their permits are not yet expired.
- As though making it appear that the government would ensure human, food, feed, and environmental safety by following national and international protocols on biosafety and involving several agencies and multi-stakeholders in the crafting of new rules and regulations, the new Joint Department Circular will in fact, further solidify the Philippines’ position as a ‘biotechnology leader and model for GE regulatory policy in the region.’
- During last year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology, it was clearly raised by economies in attendance that the delays in the commercialization of GM research in the Philippines may impact the country’s ‘agricultural competitiveness’ particularly in the light of trade liberalization initiatives such as the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), further stressing our argument that the new circular will only support, strengthen and intensify the importation of GM crops and by-products.
- As if more than a decade of GM corn commercialization in the Philippines is not yet enough proof and living testimony that GM propagation and commercialization have not benefited corn farmers and resulted to irreversible damaging effects on their socio-economic status, the government is fast-tracking the crafting and approval of a new Joint Department Circular without consideration to thorough public participation and information.
- Only those who stand to benefit from this new Joint Department Circular are profit-oriented multinational and transnational agrochemical companies promoting GE and GM products and technologies, traders and exporters of GE crops and by-products, in particular U.S.-based exporters of soybean, soybean meal, feeds and fodders, coarse grains, cotton, vegetable oil and other GE products, an industry that is worth almost US$800 million.
- Farmers strongly oppose and reject the Joint Department Circular. We will defend our rights to safe and sufficient food, health and healthy environment at all times. We will continue to defend our rights to land, seeds and technology for the people.
(sgd) RAFAEL V. MARIANO
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas