Philippines: Court Blocks Commercial Propagation of GMO Rice and Eggplant

Photo courtesy of MASIPAG, one of the petitioners of the GMO case.

ELAW partner Zelda Soriano of Community Legal Help and Public Interest Centre (C-HELP) recently sent exciting news of a victory in their efforts to protect the Philippines from the hasty commercial propagation of genetically modified (GMO) rice and eggplant. Last year, the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan and it referred the case to the Court of Appeals (CA).

The CA recently rendered judgment directing the government respondents to halt the commercial propagation of GMO rice and eggplant. The CA applied the precautionary principle and found that no consensus was reached on the safety or harmful effects of GMO rice and eggplant on humans and the environment. In the judgment, the Court shifted the burden of proof to respondents. The CA said, “To reiterate, the burden of evidence of harm is placed on those desiring to change the status quo, who, in this case, are the respondents.”

Genetically Modified (GMO) Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant

Golden Rice is rice that has been modified by inserting a gene from maize and a gene from bacteria found in soil that allows the plant to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice. Beta-carotene is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, such as squash, papaya, and carrots, giving them their yellow color, and it can be synthesized by the human body to make vitamin A.

Bt Eggplant is an eggplant into which a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis has been inserted. According to its developer, Bt Eggplant was developed so that the eggplant, like the bacterium Bt, will produce its own toxin to kill the fruit and shoot borer which is one of several common pests that consume and damage eggplants.

The CA, noting that respondent government regulators did not comply with the monitoring mechanism and risk assessment procedure under current regulations, also granted petitioners the writ of continuing mandamus and ordered the government agencies to submit concrete mechanisms to strengthen monitoring and risk assessment procedures. The court stressed that “monitoring of GMO activities by the government cannot be taken lightly. It is not an empty formality that can be disregarded or passed on to others.”

“As we celebrate this victory, we will continue collaborating with ELAW and other partners to prepare for the possible appeal by respondents,” says Zelda. “We hope that the positive judgment can eventually be useful not only in the Philippines but to other communities around the world facing similar challenges related to GMOs.”

Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide

For more information, please see:

MASIPAG. April 19, 2024. Farmers and People Victorious in Environmental Court Case against GM Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant

Greenpeace Philippines. April 19, 2024. Greenpeace statement on people’s win against genetically modified rice

Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment. SEARICE Statement on Philippines Appeals Court decision to stop GMO distribution, propagation

Rappler. April 24, 2024. Court of Appeals Stops Propagation of Genetically Modified Golden Rice and Eggplant

2nd Image: Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in a screenhouse of Golden Rice plants. PHOTO: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).