Philippines’ Golden Rice approval puts farmers and consumers at risk – PANAP

A banner protesting Golden Rice by Philippine farmer-scientist organization MASIPAG

Penang, Malaysia—Regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) assailed the Philippine government’s approval of the genetically-modified Golden Rice, saying that it will make Filipino rice farmers even more dependent on patented GM seeds and expensive chemical inputs, destroy local rice varieties, and put Filipino consumers’ health and safety at risk.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) announced that Golden Rice has been approved for direct use as food and feed, or for processing by the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry last December 10, citing a “rigorous biosafety assessment” that Golden Rice “has been found to be as safe as conventional rice.”

PANAP, a convenor of the region-wide Stop Golden Rice Network, said that such an assessment does not reflect the numerous issues raised against Golden Rice for the past two decades. Among these are scientific findings of its negligible Vitamin A content, fast beta-carotene degradation and its possible toxicity, and unethical testing on children. It also does not take into consideration the inevitability of genetic contamination, which can wipe out local rice varieties, once Golden Rice is commercially cultivated.

PANAP said that agrochemical companies are using Golden Rice to give a humanitarian face to GMOs, and as an entry point for introducing more genetically-modified crops in the Asia Pacific region.

“Golden Rice is not only unsafe, it is clearly unnecessary, especially in countries like the Philippines where rich plant biodiversity is more than enough for its population’s Vitamin A needs. Golden Rice will cause more harm than good, and that’s why farmers and consumers movements have been opposing it,” said Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP executive director.

Rengam pointed out that while the Philippine government cited safety clearances given by US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to Golden Rice, these countries will not host field trials and actually not be the ones to produce and consume Golden Rice, which is primarily marketed to underdeveloped countries to supposedly combat malnutrition. “The agrochemical industry heavily influences regulatory agencies in developed and underdeveloped countries alike. Together with IRRI, which has long pushed for Golden Rice, agrochemical companies have clearly maneuvered to have Golden Rice approved in the Philippines. This affects other countries whose people are similarly fighting against the entry and commercialization of Golden Rice, such as Bangladesh. We hope that the Philippine government will reconsider and hear out concerns aired by local farmers and civil society, as well as the opposition to Golden Rice globally,” Rengam added.###

Reference: Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific, Executive Director, sarojeni.rengam@panap.net