Halting Commercial Propagation of GMO Rice and Eggplant in the Philippines

Rice field beside a household in Nueva Ecija, Philippines. PHOTO: Tristan on Unsplash.

ELAW partner Zelda Soriano of Community Legal Help and Public Interest Centre (C-HELP) recently shared the exciting news that the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a writ of kalikasan in response to their petition against the commercial propagation of GMO rice and eggplant in the Philippines.

The petitioners are a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, NGOs, and scientists called Farmers and Scientists for Development (MASIPAG). Represented by C-HELP, they are asking the Court to halt the commercial propagation of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant and cancel all biosafety permits until proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown. This includes performing independent risk and impact assessments, obtaining the prior and informed consent of farmers and indigenous peoples, and implementing liability mechanisms in case of damage.

The patent for Golden Rice belongs to Syngenta, a transnational agrochemical corporation. The petitioners raised concerns that the rice, which has genes inserted from maize and from bacteria allowing the plant to biosynthesize beta-carotene, has not met legal requirements for safety for humans and the environment. The petitioners raised similar concerns regarding Bacillus thuringiensis Eggplant, or Bt Eggplant, which was designed so that the plant itself produces Bt, a toxin meant to kill insects that feed on the eggplant.

“The Court has not yet issued a temporary environmental protection order, but incremental victories should be celebrated,” says Zelda, who added:

“Thanks to ELAW for helping to review our arguments that the human and ecological impacts of these crops have not been researched sufficiently to ensure compliance with the laws of the Philippines. ELAW also helped with the much-needed research for us to debunk the incorrect and misleading claims of respondents that Golden Rice has been unqualifiedly approved for food or feed in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S. It was important to us because the false claim produces a bandwagon effect that might influence the judgment of the court. The information was difficult to get without ELAW’s help.”

The writ of kalikasan ordered respondents to file their answer to the petition. “We have reached out to the ELAW network to discuss similar cases filed in other jurisdictions and are grateful for the support and connections made with experts to bolster our arguments as we advance this case,” says Zelda.

Read more: 

MASIPAG National Office. May 8, 2023
Why did farmers, scientists, and advocates file the writ of kalikasan to stop the commercial propagation of GMO crops?

Supreme Court of the Philippines. April 19, 2023
SC Issues Writ of Kalikasan on Genetically Modified Rice and Eggplant Products

Rappler. April 28, 2023
Group asks local governments to take lead vs. GMO rice, eggplant

Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

Rice. PHOTO: Faris Mohammed on Unsplash.