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Philippine mayors unite to declare towns GMO-free

Lab tests show GM crops have already cross-pollinated with natural crops

<p>Farmer Ruel Anggi (right) receives an award from Mayor Nacianceno Pacalioga (left) Bernward Geier of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements-Europe (second left) and Joseph Wilhelm of Rapunzel Naturkost-Germany (second right) for promoting organic farming in the town of Dumingag. (Photo by Bong Fabe)</p>

Farmer Ruel Anggi (right) receives an award from Mayor Nacianceno Pacalioga (left) Bernward Geier of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements-Europe (second left) and Joseph Wilhelm of Rapunzel Naturkost-Germany (second right) for promoting organic farming in the town of Dumingag. (Photo by Bong Fabe)

  • ucanews.com reporter, Zamboanga del Sur
  • Philippines
  • December 17, 2013
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A coalition of 16 mayors in the southern Philippines have declared their towns free of genetically modified organisms.

"We do this because organic agriculture and GMOs cannot possibly co-exist, as they contradict each other," said one of them, Mayor Nacianceno Pacalioga Jr of Dumingag.

Pacalioga, who has won awards for his work with agriculture, said he fears that genetically modified organisms will undermine organic agriculture gains in the country.

The International Rice Research Institute and the Department of Agriculture announced last month that genetically modified and patented "golden rice" will be commercially released within two to three years.

"Declare GMO-free zones field by field, town by town, city by city, province by province until you cover the entire country," Bernward Geier of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, told the mayors at a meeting last weekend in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur province.

"When you are in a festive and positive mood while being passionate for your cause, more people come along with you, and there is power in numbers," said Joseph Wilhelm, president of Rapunzel Naturkost, one of the largest organic food manufacturers in Germany.

Geier and Wilhelm were in the country to share experience with local advocates of organic farming.

Greenpeace last month warned that white corn, the popular Filipino staple, has been contaminated with genetically modified organisms. The group said findings from an independent testing laboratory show that GMOs have already cross-pollinated with traditional and natural staple crops in the country.

The test results, published in the report "White Corn in the Philippines: Contaminated with Genetically Modified Varieties," show that all samples tested positive for contamination, with some samples showing high levels in the genetic material of some traditional white corn varieties.

Esperanza Santos of the women’s group Saliraya told ucanews.com that the findings "are alarming," adding that the contamination "exposes Filipinos to the inherent risks of GMO crops".

Saliraya has long promoted white corn, which supposedly does not have genetically engineered varieties. "But now it seems we are eating GMOs without our full knowledge and consent," Santos said.

The full extent of genetically modified contamination is still unknown, Greenpeace said, because the testing represents a "snapshot" of the genetically modified content of corn for sale in Mindanao.

White corn is the staple of 20 percent of the Philippine population. Farmers in several regions in Mindanao prefer to grow white corn because of its higher selling price as compared to yellow corn.

The only way to stop contamination "is to stop planting GMOs," said Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"The government must protect our staple food crops. They should investigate the extent of this contamination, and impose a moratorium on the release of GMO corn and other GMO crops while this contamination is being investigated," he said.

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