Farmers harvest organic rice in Mindanao. (Photo by Keith Bacongco)
Go Organic Mindanao, a network of organic food advocates, yesterday launched a signature campaign urging the Philippines government to stop the commercialization of the genetically modified rice variety known as "golden rice."
Fr Joy Pelino, head of Marbel diocese's social action center, urged Mindanao farmers and residents "to remember to put our communities and the environment first before the interests of biotech firms and agri-corporations."
Dagohoy Mangaway, a farmer and acitivist, expressed concern that the introduction of "golden rice" will destroy the purity of organic rice farms.
Mangaway, a member of Go Organic in Davao City, said more than 50 varieties of native Philippine rice are grown throughout Mindanao using indigenous organic farming techniques.
He said these are often marketed as heirloom rice and command high prices in the market.
Geonathan Barro of the farmers group Masipag said if golden rice only aims to address Vitamin A deficiency, "there are several sources of Vitamin A readily available in backyards."
Loreto Cabaya, provincial board member of North Cotabato, said the promotion of golden rice conflicts with the government's program to promote organic agriculture.
In 2010, the government passed the Organic Agriculture Act, which aims to promote organic agricultural practices and bans the use of genetically modified organisms.
Nasser Ali of the Carmen Agricultural Resources Development-Producers Cooperative, said farmers in North Cotabato do not need golden rice because the province is rich in indigenous rice varieties.
"Golden rice will not prosper here because of the strong commitment of the provincial government to promote organic agricultural practices," Ali told ucanews.com.
The online campaign dubbed "Stand Up For Your Rice" noted that the genetically modified rice variety will cause irreversible damage to health, food security, environment, culture and communities.
More than 60 countries have already imposed a moratorium or outright bans on genetically-modified organisms. The Philippines, however, does not have a bio-safety law or the capacity and resources to conduct robust risk assessments for genetically modified organisms intended for field testing and propagation.