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Alarm up vs modified ‘golden rice’

By Yas Ocampo | Apr. 25, 2014 at 12:01am

DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur—Several environmental groups have raised the alarm against golden rice, a genetically modified variety, that threatened “to destroy the organic purity of organic farms,” a group called Interface Development Intervention (IDIS) said on Thursday.

IDIS executive director Ann Fuertes said they have asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to stop propagation of golden rice to prevent contamination of the island’s native rice varieties.

“If the golden rice is introduced into the market, there is a significant risk of its genetically modified gene crossing over to the indigenous varieties, destroying the purity of our organic rice farms,” said Dagohoy Magaway of the Go Organic Davao City (GoDC)

IDIS and GoDC have started gathering signatures to back a petition to stop the use of golden rice. They plan to gather 50,000 signatures in Davao City, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and the provinces of North Cotabato, Agusan and Bukidnon.

Mindanao has more than 50 varieties of native rice, which are planted with the use of indigenous organic farming techniques. These varieties are marketed as heirloom rice and they command high prices in organic market.

Reynaldo Ebora, director of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, said opposition to the golden rice was unreasonable because the scientists who developed the crop “are ready to answer their questions.”

“What the groups are doing are spreading different issues all at once, which leaves those who are studying these varieties of crops in a difficult position,” Ebora said.

Ebora said the government should not ban golden rice because it offers an alternative to what is available at the market.

But Go Organic Mindanao coordinator Joy Pelina said consumers have rejected pesticide-intensive and genetically modified agriculture in favor of organic farming and “we are putting our country on a path to a sustainable and healthier future.”

In their petition, they called on the DA to uphold the integrity of Philippine Organic Agriculture Act, which seeks to develop and protect organic agriculture by stopping the entry of genetically modified organisms in the country.

“The objective of these petitions is to show the Aquino Administration that there is significant opposition to golden rice. In the interest of our farmers and food security, golden rice should be banned from being introduced into our country’s farmlands,” Pelina said.

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