ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED RICE
    Farmers’ group challenges visiting Canada-based team to debate

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – A farmers’ movement has challenged to a debate a Canada- based lobby group visiting the Philippines to promote genetically modified (GM) Golden Rice.

    The Canadian group called Allow Golden Rice Now!, led by Dr. Patrick Moore, arrived yesterday and is expected to stay on up to March 10, as part of its Asia-wide campaign tour covering Bangladesh, India and the Philippines.

    “We reiterate the opposition of Filipino farmers to GM crops and we will register our resistance against Golden Rice and other GM crops”, said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Chairperson and RESIST Agrochem TNCs! Convenor Rafael Mariano in a statement yesterday.

    He noted that the Canada-based group “aims to convince government officials and the Filipino people to accept Golden Rice as means to solve Vitamin A deficiency or VAD.”

    “This lobby group has been spewing a lot of misleading claims about Golden Rice and its alleged benefits to the public and farmers. We therefore challenge Patrick Moore, the leader of the group, to a public debate so that the people can once and for all know the truth behind the lies of Golden Rice”, said Mariano.

    “Golden Rice is genetically modified rice with a gene from the maize plant and a soil bacterium scientifically known as Erwinia uredovora which forces the rice plant to artificially express beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A,” Mariano explained.

    Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of an agriculture group called MASIPAG, said “the complex issue of VAD and malnutrition is inextricably linked to poverty and lack of access to resources.”

    “Golden Rice, however grand it is, is a deceptive solution to the problem. The issue of Vitamin A Deficiency and malnutrition cannot be solved by an unstable and yet unproven technology, such as genetic engineering. On the contrary, it will further endanger the health and livelihood of farmers and consumers,” he stressed.

    Medina said “our opposition to Golden Rice and other GM crops are founded on solid arguments and actual experiences of Filipino farmers on GM crops.”

    “Filipino farmers who have been planting GM crops suffered negative income, health problems and poisoned environment,” added Medina who noted a study made by MASIPAG which showed that “farmers who adopted GM corn suffered further indebtedness, health problems and a poisoned environment.”

    Bert Autor, coordinator of Sararong Inisyatiba nin Kahinwanmaan na Wasakon ang Agrokemikals na Lasong- GMO (SIKWAL-GMO) and secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB) noted that “the Philippines is abundant with vitamin- A rich vegetables such as malunggay, gabi leaves, kangkong, squash, and camote.”

    “In fact, these crops contain more betacarotene than Golden Rice. So there is no reason for the government to commercialize this Golden Rice. We will not allow Filipinos to become guinea pigs of agrochemical trans-national corporations or TNC’s” he stressed.

    Mariano recalled that last year, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and PhilRice announced that they failed to commercialize Golden Rice due to the very low yield performance of the said crop.

    Mariano also cited a report of the Food and Nutritional Research Institute saying that regardless of Goldern Rice, VAD in the country has already reached the threshold level, as a result of varying interventions to curb VAD.

    “From 40 percent of children aged 0-5 years old in 2003, the VAD cases plummeted to 15 percent in 2008. Percentage of VAD cases among pregnant and lactating mothers also went down. Mariano said these figures already show that there are inexpensive and viable alternatives to solve VAD,” he noted.

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