MONSANTO "BULLYING ITS WAY" IN NORTHERN PHILIPPINES, SAYS A CATHOLIC CLERGY
Masipag News & Views
Amid news militant farmers uprooted MonsantoÃs Bt-Corn in Mindanao, Ilagan Bishop Sergio Utleg has accused the giant agrochemical firm of Ã¬bullying its wayÃ® in northern Philippine province of Isabela.
In a Sept 2 pastoral statement read before 35 parishes in Isabela, Utleg said Monsanto has started with its open-field experiment in two barangays in the province ‘in spite of our opposition.’
‘Here is a multinational company by the name of Monsanto bullying its way in the Province of Isabela, “wining and dining” (government) officials and God knows whom else so that they will accede to its agenda,’ said the Roman Catholic clergy.
Monsanto, through its seed division Agroseed, is currently conducting a multi-location open-field testing of Bt-Corn in 10 different villages in five provinces in the northern and southern parts of the country.
The government-approved test sites in Isabela are located in VillaLuna, Cauayan City; Carulay, Echague and either San Felipe, Ilagan or Alangigan II, Ilagan.
Monsanto, the second largest seed company in the world, has started testing Bt-Corn in the villages of Villaluna and Carulay.
Utleg expressed fears that a proposed provincial ordinance, authored by Hon. Nicasio Bautista Jr., banning the field trial may not be passed with a variety of wooing techniques employed by Monsanto to local government officials.
Views of the Roman Catholic Church are held with high regard in this predominantly Catholic South East Asian country.
Residents complain no public hearing was conducted by Monsanto despite constitutional provisions asking for consultation where public safety is concerned.
Masipag scientists believe the open-field testing could contaminate local corn varieties with the genetically engineered variety whose safety could still not be established conclusively.
Bt-Corn is genetically engineered to contain gene from the soil bacterium Baccilus thuringiensis, enabling this crop to fight corn borer.
Unlike the first field test in General Santos City in late 1999, detasseling, which prevents corn plants from cross-pollinating, is not a part of the current biosafety measures in the multi-location testing. ‘The pollen of the Bt-Corn will be carried by the wind and fertilize the surrounding corn plants and thus, even without wanting it, all other corn plants will be contaminated by the Bt-Corn,’ said Utleg.
Masipag scientists say that corn sheds its pollen starting 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Long distance pollen travel could occur on a windy day.
‘It puts in unnecessary risk our already endangered genetic resources by allowing an irreversible contamination of our corn varieties by a variety that remains uncertain and still a subject of intense scientific debates worldwide,’ said Abigail Verdillo, an agronomist of Masipag.
‘And what about the peopleÃs health?’ she asked. ‘Monsanto is simply testing for the efficacy of Bt-Corn against corn borer and safety tests for human and the environment is not part of the test protocol.’
The multi-location tests simply aims to confirm the resistance of C-818 and C-838 Yieldgard against Asiatic corn borer, evaluate the cornÃs economic value and compare grain quality.
Scientists say a GMO crop could cause unintended side-effects ranging from a mere allergy to death.
Isabela province is the second largest corn-growing area in the Philippines next to Mindanao. Corn is a staple cereal to many native Isabelan.
‘On account of the impending dangers resulting from the field testing of Bt-Corn, we call on our Provincial Officials to abort the field testing of Bt-Corn that was already ventured upon by Monsanto and to ban any further field-testing of Bt-Corn thereupon,’ said Utleg.
‘May the God who created all things enlighten the minds of persons who set their sights on profit and wealth rather than the safety and integrity of creation,’ he said.
On Aug 29, about 800 farmers, consumers, environmentalists, church people and students uprooted Bt-Corn crops in an experimental field of Monsanto in Tampakan town, South Cotabato. (MNV)
[Masipag News & Views is an occasional information release of the Farmer Scientist Partnership for Development (MASIPAG). This report, in whole or in part, could be freely published.]
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