Minimum biosafety requirements not met
EXCERPT: The court said that after a lengthy review of scientific literature, it has concluded that "in sum, current scientific research indicates that the biotech industry has not sufficiently addressed the uncertainties over the safety of GMO foods and crops".
SC stops field tests on Bt talong
By MARK MERUEÑAS
GMA News, December 8, 2015
The Supreme Court has permanently stopped the government's field testing of Bt talong and declared the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8 on such tests null and void.
The high tribunal, according to a resolution read by SC spokesman Theodore Te, dismissed several petitions in support of field testing for genetically modified, pest-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) talong (eggplant).
According to the SC, AO No. 8 failed to meet the minimum requirements for safety set in Executive Order No. 514 which established the National Biosafety Framework.
The SC said the government and the companies involved made "no real effort to operationalize the principles of the NBF in the conduct of field testing of Bt talong."
The SC said it reviewed the testimonies of scientists and noticed that they do not have a consensus on the safety of Bt talong.
"These divergent views reflect the continuing international debate on GMOs and the varying degrees of acceptance of GM technology by states, especially in developed countries," the SC said.
In the same ruling, the Supreme Court also temporarily stopped the government from accepting applications for field testing, propagating, and importing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
"Any application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization, and importation of genetically modified organisms is temporarily enjoined until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with the law," the SC said.
The court said that after a lengthy review of scientific literature, it has concluded that "in sum, current scientific research indicates that the biotech industry has not sufficiently addressed the uncertainties over the safety of GMO foods and crops."
The SC said it decided to temporarily stop GMO field testing and importation because they present "uncertainty, the possibility of irreversible harm and the possibility of serious harm."
The SC ruling was an affirmation of the original decision of the Court of Appeals Special 13th Division, which earlier issued a "writ of kalikasan" ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned government agencies to stop the trials on Bt talong.
The CA said that, as a "precautionary" measure, the field testings should be stopped in the absence of "full scientific certainty" that they are safe to humans and the environment.
“It is clear that there is no full scientific certainty yet as to the effects of the Bt talong field trials to the environment and the health of the people,” said the appellate court.
“[F]ield trials of Bt talong could not be declared by this court as safe to human health and to our ecology, with full scientific certainty, it being an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology,” it added.
The appellate court said that as long as "scientifically plausible" field testings remain "scientifically uncertain," actions should be taken to avoid and diminish the possible threats and damage to environment they may cause.
Scientists', farmers' petition
The case was initiated by a group of scientists, farmers, and other concerned individuals who earlier asked the Supreme Court to stop the government from introducing genetically engineered eggplants to Philippine soil, citing health and environmental hazards.
The government has been conducting field tests for Bt talong since 2010 in Pangasinan, Camarines Sur, Davao City, Laguna, and North Cotabato.
The petitioners said the project proponents of Bt talong did not only fail to secure the necessary environmental compliance certificate, but also failed to consult with the respective local government units, non-government organizations and other sectors.
"Bt talong is a classic environmental case where scientific evidence as to the health and environmental safety and socio-economic impact is insufficent, inconclusive or uncertain," the petitioners said.
The Supreme Court eventually issued a writ of kalikasan on May 2, 2012 and remanded the petition to the Court of Appeals for hearings on the scientific and factual questions involved.