Environmental groups: Spare trees along Dakudao Avenue

April 25th, 2014 by

ENVIRONMENTAL groups opposed the proposed plan to cut down the trees along Dacudao Avenue, the only major thoroughfare in Davao City shaded with mature trees, insisting that the idea is “too extreme and alternative options have not been explored.”

In a statement sent to Sun.Star Davao, the Interface Development Interventions (Idis) said such proposal was revealed by City Environment and National Resources Office (Cenro) Forester Chris Asibal during the Rainwater Harvesting Forum organized by the Idis and the Davao City Water District on March 24.

The planting of falcata trees that line up Dacudao Avenue was an initiative of a civic organization sometime in the early 1990s.

According to Asibal, the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) plans to remove the trees to improve the main drain canal which is situated at the aisle of the road.

“They plan to improve the canal so they filed a request to remove the trees. As Cenro technical officer, I recommended not to cut down the trees because the avenue is the heart of the city which gives us fresh oxygen,” Asibal said.

He also revealed that the CEO is also planning to replace the trees with other plants.

However, he said replacing trees would be “wasteful.”

“Once trees reach 10 years or more, their capacity to absorb pollutants and carbon dioxide is increased,” he said.

“There is a need to assess the area; they can replace the over-mature and defective trees but not all. The structure of the canal can just be improved so that it can stay and serve longer,” he added.

Idis executive director Ann Fuertes also called the CEO to cease its proposal.

“Dacudao Avenue is the only major thoroughfare in Davao City shaded with mature trees. It is in stark contrast to the rest of Davao’s major streets which are all concrete and asphalt; all the more we should preserve it,” Fuertes said.

“It is extremely short-sighted to sacrifice what little greenery we have at the expense of a little convenience.

She said she recommends the CEO that “instead of cutting the trees, they should remove the silt and accumulated waste in the canal so that the run-off will not overflow in the lower lying areas.”

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries Inc. (DCCCII) former President Sofronio Jucutan, who also attended the forum, pointed out that the main drain canal does not need any improvement because it can sufficiently handle the run-off coming from Bajada and Buhangin.

As a matter of fact, he said that when the University of Southeastern Philippines (Usep) sent their engineer to study the problem, he found out that there is no problem with the structure.

“There is no issue with the canal; the issue is with the outlet, right after the overpass. So the plan should be reassessed and whenever possible, wag putulin ang kahoy,” Jucutan said. (Arianne Caryl Casas, SUNSTAR DAVAO)

Organic farmers: Stop GMO Rice Commercialization

April 25th, 2014 by

DAVAO CITY—Mindanao organic farmers are calling for a stop to the proposed commercialization of genetically modified golden rice in the country as they celebrated Earth Day on Tuesday, saying its undetermined risks to health far outweigh its promised benefits.

“The golden rice is a major threat not only to the livelihood of organic farmers but also to the health of millions of Asian consumers who depend upon rice as their staple,” said Geonathan Barro, advocacy officer of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag)-Mindanao, a network of over 36,000 farmers and scientists nationwide.

“It really puts the health of people at risk,” he said in a forum on Tuesday.

Thousands of farmers in Mindanao signed a petition opposing the proposed commercialization of genetically modified rice during an international Earth Day forum here on Tuesday, said Ann Fuertes, executive director of the environment group Interface for Development Intervention.

Fuertes said they were going to submit the petition to the Department of Agriculture office soon.

If commercialization pushes through, golden rice would first be tested on Filipinos, “making us the world’s virtual guinea pig for the genetically modified golden rice,” Barro said.

Barro said even the argument for golden rice could not stand on its own.

Propagating genetically modified rice as an answer to Vitamin A deficiency is totally impractical and unnecessary because farmers and children can get Vitamin A everywhere, just by growing yellow and green and leafy vegetables in their backyard. He showed studies indicating how the betacarotene content of the genetically modified rice is much lower compared to the betacarotene content of vegetables like carrots, malunggay and squash.

“There are so many sources of betacarotene around us that are for free,” he said.
But instead of promoting vegetable planting in schools, big agrocompanies are promoting genetically modified rice, he said.

“But why? They’re the same companies engaged in big seed business,” he said. He also cited studies showing how betacarotene content declines by 50 percent after cooking.

Barro said there has been no consensus among scientists worldwide that genetically modified rice has been proven safe. “At least, 300 scientists around the world agree that GMOs have not yet been proven to be safe,” Barro said.

Farmers in Pili, Camarines Sur, uprooted the golden rice in its field testing site in August last year, in the same way that farmers also uprooted Bt Corn in the field testing site in Tampakan, South Cotabato, in 2001 and the Bt Talong in the UP Mindanao field testing site in Davao City in 2011.

Lawyer Lee Aruelo, associate of the Third World Network, said the process to commercialize the golden rice would take a lot longer, since the law requires the proponents to conduct a series of tests to prove that they are safe for humans.

Dagohoy Magaway, a member of Go Organic Davao City, said commercialization would mean they would be planted in the country, which means there would be a very high risk that genes of the genetically modified rice would cross over the indigenous varieties diligently grown by organic farmers.

“This will destroy the purity of organic rice varieties,” Magaway said during the forum intended to educate the public and generate public outcry against golden rice.  (Germelina Lacorte, INQUIRER MINDANAO)

No to ‘Golden Rice’

April 23rd, 2014 by

DAVAO CITY — Organic food advocates in Mindanao are asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to stop the production and commercialization of genetically modified ‘Golden Rice’ citing alleged dangers it poses to health and environment amid lack of proper bio-safety regulating mechanisms in the country.

The beta carotene-containing Golden Rice, which is being eyed as a global dietary solution for people who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, is undergoing field testing at the department’s regional field unit in Pili, Camarines Sur as well as in the provinces of Isabela, Ilocos Norte and Nueva Ecija.

“Golden Rice is touted to address Vitamin A deficiency, but is this what we really need considering our main problem is landlessness?” Fr. Joy B. Pelino, Go Organic Mindanao coordinator of the Social Action Center Diocese of Marbel in South Cotabato, said in an interview.

Go Organic Mindanao, which is composed of different organizations, conducted a forum on Golden Rice at the Ateneo de Davao University on Tuesday, April 22, in celebration of the International Earth Day and for the purpose of gathering commitments from various sectors to oppose the commercialization of Golden Rice.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has continued with the testing of the Golden Rice despite an improvement in the number of Vitamin A-deficient children aged six months to five years in the country, which according to the 2008 Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s 7th National Nutrition Survey went down from 40% in 2003 to 15.2% in 2008.

Vitamin A deficiency is said to be the leading cause of preventable blindness and child mortality in developing countries like the Philippines. IRRI said Vitamin A deficiency affects more than 1.7 million children in the country.

Sr. Nelda L. Balaba of the Social Action Center-Marbel, however, said there are other ways to resolve the issue on Vitamin A deficiency including the promotion of organically produced vegetables that naturally contain beta-carotene. She said the Department of Agriculture is planning to download Golden Rice to farmers and the farmers are not even aware of this, or the effects of producing this genetically modified rice.

Diego D. dela Cruz, Jr. of nongovernmental group Masipag Mindanao claimed the farmers are being tricked into using the fast-growing Golden Rice for free this time but when they become used to the yield, control of this variety will already be in the hands of multinational companies which will sell the seeds at expensive prices.

Dagohoy P. Magaway, a member of the Go Organic Davao City and president of the Mamamayang Ayaw sa Aerial Spray warned of the significant risk of the Golden Rice genetically modified gene contaminating the native organic rice varieties once it is commercialized. There are at least 50 varieties of native Philippine rice varieties being grown organically all over Mindanao and are marketed as heirloom rice.

“Consumers should all stand up and reject genetically modified agricultural products and pesticide-intensive agriculture in favor of organic farming which is more sustainable,” Mr. Pelino said. The Go Organic Mindanao is asking the DA to support Republic Act 10068, also known as “The Philippine Organic Agriculture Act”, by developing and protecting organic agriculture and preventing the entry of genetically engineered crops in Philippine agriculture.

Laxity of bio-safety laws was scored by lawyer Lee M. Aruelo, researcher of Third World Network, a nongovernmental organization engaged in environment and development issues. She said if it pushes through, Golden Rice will be the first genetically modified crop ever that will be commercialized for consumption.

“This will have far-reaching effects since rice is a staple food,” she said. But more than its effect on health and the environment, she said the commercialization of Golden Rice and the resulting contamination of organic rice will result in an income loss of almost 100% for farmers.

Ms. Aruelo said organic products including rice are fetching higher prices both in the domestic and international markets. But once the indigenous organic varieties are contaminated genetically by Golden Rice, the farmers will no longer be able to sell it as organic rice but only as conventional rice with a lesser price tag.

Rice and other products require certification before it can be marketed as organic. Once contaminated, organic rice from the Philippines will no longer be certified as organic and thus, our farmers will have difficulty exporting their rice to the world market, she said.

Ms. Aruelo said advocates can still put a stop on the proliferation of Golden Rice because there is still a long way to go before it can be approved for commercialization. While field tests are already being conducted, she said there are only five field tests all being conducted in Luzon, which has different climate compared with Visayas and Mindanao.

Thus, she added, it could not be ascertained if such rice will be as productive or will have the same Vitamin A content when grown in the other parts of the country. Section 8 of DA Administration Order No. 8 Series of 2002 does not, however, require a specific number of field test sites provided that it shall be evaluated by the Bureau of Plant Industry.  ( Lovely Carillo, BUSINESSWORLD)

Groups urge DA to stop GM Rice production

April 22nd, 2014 by

AFTER a court banned the field trials for the genetically modified eggplants in the country, environmental advocates are now calling the Department of Agriculture (DA) to halt the production and commercialization of the genetically modified crop “Golden Rice”.

The golden rice is a new type of rice that contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. It is a variety of Oryza sativa rice that is being developed through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene as a potential new food-based approach to improve vitamin A – which has been a serious health problem globally.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 250 million children suffer from vitamin deficiency. It also said that around 250,000 to 500,000 children go blind every year due to malnutrition with half of them dying within a year after being blind.

Reports said the golden rice is now undergoing multi-location field trials in different sites in Luzon. It needs to pass several tests before it will be commercialized. However, a lot of people are not convinced on genetically modified crop.

Go Organic Mindanao (GOM) coordinator of the Social Action Center Diocese (SACD) of Marbel, Fr. Joy B. Pelino, in a media briefing on Anti Go Mindanao Organic (GMO) Rice at Hue Cafe – Ateneo Business Center on Tuesday, said there is no proof that the golden rice is really good for the health.

“There’s no sufficient data in terms of its safety. In fact, independent studies revealed that there are possible negative effects from the rice on human health. This will also contaminate the natural diversity of island’s native rice varieties,” Pelino said.

Mamamayang Ayaw sa Aerial Spray president and Go Organic Davao City (GoDC) member Dagohoy Magaway also said that if the golden rice will be introduced into the markets, there is a significant risk of the genetically modified gene crossing over to the indigenous varieties, destroying the purity of the organic rice farms.

Diego dela Cruz Jr. from the Masipag Mindanao said aside from the risk of the genetically modified crop, the farmers will also face problem on companies of the modified crop taking control of agriculture at the expense of poor farmers.

Sr. Nelda L. Balaba, of the SAC-Marbel, added that they believe that there are other ways to resolve the issue on vitamin A deficiency. She added that there are a lot of organically farmed vegetables that naturally contain beta-carotene.

“Marami pa namang pagkain that contains vitamin A. Hindi naman necessary ang golden rice just to solve the issue on vitamin A deficiency. So our position is to stop the field testing, production and commercialization of the rice,” Balaba said.

The groups claimed that eating genetically modified organic product could cause new allergies in people.

The fact that the crop has not been tested on human, Geonathan Barro, advocacy officer for Masipag Mindanao, added.

At least 50 varieties of the native Philippine rice are grown throughout Mindanao, using indigenous organic farming techniques. These are often marketed as heirloom rice and command high prices in organic markets.

In line with the celebration of the Earth Day, the environmental advocates also called on the Mindanawons to reject genetically modified crops like Golden Rice.

They are also asking the DA to support organic farming, instead, as provided for by the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.
“If we consumers will all stand up and reject pesticide-intensive and GMOs’ dependent agriculture in favor of organic farming, we could put our island, and our country-on the path to a sustainable future and ensure a healthier future for everyone,” Pelino said.

The advocates also urged the DA to uphold the integrity of Republic Act 10068, or The Philippine Organic Agriculture Act, which seeks to develop and protect the organic agriculture nationwide by stopping the entry of genetically modified organisms into Philippine agriculture.

Third World Network associate and GOM member Atty. Lee Aruelo said that similar actions have been initiated across the country. He added that this is to show to government that there is a significant opposition to the GMOs and Golden Rice.

“In the interest of our farmers and food security, genetically modified organics should be banned from being introduced into our country’s farmlands,” Aruelo said. ( Ivy Tejano, SUNSTAR DAVAO)