A report has just been released in the Philippines by Greenpeace Southeast Asia with details of GE contaminated products being dumped on the Phillipine consumer. It includes good overviews of promises made (and flouted!) by Unilever and Nestlé as well as a good roundup of govt positions on labelling/regulations worldwide.
Below is a press release from the launch of the results. Although the Phillipines government is anti- GMO, it is known that it is being very heavily lobbied by the biotech industry/US..
The open letter to the President (second item below) includes details of promises made by the agriculture secratary last week to submit GE foods to toxcological tests, to allow local governments to veto field trials and to institute a labelling and safety regime (at the moment there are NO gmo regulations). Let's hope, despite the heavy industry/US pressure, they follow through on these promises. Here's the final paragraph of the letter:
"If they haven’t yet, we anticipate the biotechnology industry to come knocking on your doors soon, and with the help of foreign governments like the United States and the research institutions that they sponsor, try to compel you to backtrack if not altogether abandon your stated policy position on GMOs. We expect them to force your government to toe the pro-GMO line, dangling the usual carrot of "foreign investments" and stick of WTO sanctions. We are hopeful, however, that your conviction on this matter will remain strong and that you would not sell the interests of the environment and our people for the benefit of greedy transnational biotechnology companies."
1. GREENPEACE EXPOSES PHILIPPINE FOOD PRODUCTS CONTAINING ‘GMOs’
March 15, 2001
MANILA - “The Filipino is unwittingly being force-fed genetically engineered food in a long term experiment whose impacts on human health and the environment are still largely unknown,”11 Genetic engineering of food is an inherently risky process. The long-term effects of releasing GMOs into the environment and into people’s diets remain unknown for the most part. Possible effects of GMOs include the triggering of unexpected allergies and development of antibiotic resistance in humans, genetic contamination of seeds and crops, and the possible wiping out of certain species, according to the international environmental group Greenpeace, after new laboratory tests commissioned by the group confirmed the presence of genetically modified organisms or GMOs in everyday food items sold in Philippine supermarkets.
In a press conference marking the celebration of World Consumer Rights Day, Greenpeace accused multinational and local food and companies of denying Filipino consumers their right to be fully informed about the products they are buying as well as their right to choose food products which do not contain GMOs.
“It is shocking to know that these genetically engineered items are already ending up in our food tables without the public’s knowledge and consent. Given the fact that scientists still do not know the long-term effects of releasing GMOs into our environment and people’s diets, this situation is akin to playing Russian Roulette with the people’s health,” said Beau Baconguis, campaigner on Genetic Engineering for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
In recent tests commissioned by Greenpeace on 30 consumer food products bought from a Metro Manila supermarket, 11 products proved positive for GMO contamination.22 On December 19, 2000, Greenpeace commissioned an independent Hong Kong food-testing laboratory (Hong Kong DNA Chips Ltd.) to test 30 common consumer food items available in Philippine supermarkets. The laboratory used a standard PCR test (polyemerase chain reaction) to check for the presence of gene sequences from the two most commonly grown types of genetically engineered crops:
* Roundup Ready crops (primarily soya and corn) which have been genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide ‘Roundup’ (Glyphosate).
* Bt Crops (primarily corn) that have been genetically engineered to produce an insecticide toxin.
All 30 products were chosen for testing because they contained either soya or corn ingredients. These products include the following: Bonus Vienna Franks, Rica Protina hotdogs, Campo Carne Moby hotdogs, Purefoods Beefy hotdogs, Quality Foods budget franks, Crab Cake distributed by Foodmart Enterprises, Yung Ho soya drink, Doritos Smokey Red Barbecue, Nestle Nesvita Natural Cereal Drink, Isomil Soy infant formula, and Knorr Cream of Corn soup.
Greenpeace accused the manufacturers of the said products especially the big multinational corporations like Nestle, Unilever, PepsiCo and Abbott of practicing double standards for rich and poor countries considering that in other places , these same companies are implementing a GE free policy in the production of their food commodities.
“In Europe, these multinational companies speak in favor of consumer rights and have even removed GMOs from their products. It is utterly despicable for them to have conveniently neglected to apply the same standard for Filipino consumers. Why maintain one standard for Europeans and another for Filipinos?” asked Jim Thomas of Greenpeace International.
On the other hand, when asked by Greenpeace , giant local food firms like Swift, San Miguel, JAKA Food Processing Enterprises, and Purefoods admitted to having no knowledge or policy about using GMOs in their products.
Although Greenpeace tested 30 products of which just over a third contained genetically engineered soya or corn, the group assumes that the 11 GMO positive products represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the genetically engineered foods and products to be found in Philippine supermarket shelves.
This is because of the fact that the country imports major quantities of corn and soya from the United States, the principal source of GE contamination worldwide. The Philippines is a leading importer of US corn and soya, raw materials which are extensively used in food processing . Because there is currently no system separating genetically engineered (GE)and non- GE commodity imports into the country , the possibility of contamination during transport, handling and storage is very high.
In addition, there are also a large number of food products produced in the US which enter the country on a regular basis. Given the widespread growing of GE crops in the US, Greenpeace contends that many of these consumer food products are likely to contain GMOs. The US Department of Agriculture considers the Philippines as its most important market in the ASEAN region for US consumer food products.
“This scandalous situation should jolt the relevant government authorities into taking swift and decisive action to remove GMOs from the nation’s food supply. A necessary first step would be for the government to immediately implement a full and strict labeling system for ingredients derived from GMOs. Filipino consumers have a right to refuse being treated like guinea pigs in a massive experiment with potentially far-reaching and irreversible consequences,” stressed Von Hernandez, campaign director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
For more information, please contact: Von Hernandez or Beau Baconguis at 434-7034; 434-7035 or mobile nos. 0917-5263050.
2. An Open Letter to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Thank you Madame President for taking a sensible and level-headed approach to the issue of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. At a time when there is growing evidence of the hazards they pose to human health and the environment, when markets globally are turning away from these products, and more and more farmers and consumers are rejecting GMOs, Greenpeace welcomes your commitment not to support the blatant pro-GMO policies of the previous administrations. In sharp contrast to the corporate compliant demeanor of the Estrada government on this issue, we find your Excellency’s position, "that the Philippines will not be initiating or pushing for this experimentation", to be truly gratifying. We are indeed grateful for the fact that your government has chosen to attach more importance to the growing objections from civil society about the potentially irreversible consequences of introducing and commercializing GMOs in this country over the well-greased and aggressive marketing push of pro-biotech interests.
Last March 6, in a multi-stakeholder roundtable discussion, your Secretary of Agriculture, Hon. Leonardo Montemayor, further reinforced your earlier pronouncements on this issue when he stated:
(1) That the draft Angara administrative order fast-tracking the commercialization of GM crops would not be approved and will have to undergo re-examination;
(2) That GM foods should undergo strict regulation including toxicological studies;
(3) That local government units should hold a right of veto over the open field trials of GM crops;
(4) That there are important questions of access and control associated with GM crops that will affect small farmers and which must be addressed;
(5) That we as a country should not press ahead with GM crops if there is no market for them; and
(6) That labeling policies for GMOs should be enacted which recognize that the question of choice is very important for both consumers and farmers.
Greenpeace welcomes all these commitments and together with other local groups opposing GMOs, we would like to see these policy statements implemented as soon as possible. Steps in the right direction would include immediately putting a halt to existing open field trials of GM crops, and setting a timetable for the mandatory labeling of GM foods available in the country.
If they haven’t yet, we anticipate the biotechnology industry to come knocking on your doors soon, and with the help of foreign governments like the United States and the research institutions that they sponsor, try to compel you to backtrack if not altogether abandon your stated policy position on GMOs. We expect them to force your government to toe the pro-GMO line, dangling the usual carrot of "foreign investments" and stick of WTO sanctions. We are hopeful, however, that your conviction on this matter will remain strong and that you would not sell the interests of the environment and our people for the benefit of greedy transnational biotechnology companies.