Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines) v. Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Genetically-modified Organisms (GMOs)
Precautionary Principle
Right to ... Healthy Environment

Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines) v. Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, CA-G.R. SP NO. 00013  (May 17, 2013)
Court of Appeals 

The petitioners alleged that government ministries failed to adopt sufficient biosafety protocols for field trials and feasibility studies of genetically-modified organisms, specifically talong (eggplant).  The petition also alleged that entities (primarily universities) failed to obtain an environmental clearance certificate prior to conducting field trials of bt talong.  The court considered the question whether the field trials violated the constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology.   

The court applied the precautionary principle, stating “it is clear that there is no full scientific certainty yet as to the effects of the bt talong field trials to the environment and the health of the people.  This is where the precautionary principle sets in which states that, when human activities may lead to threats of serious and irreversible damage to the environment that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that threat. . . . It is in this light that this Court finds that the issuance of a writ of kalikasan is warranted under the circumstances[.]”  Pages 19-20. 

With regard to the constitutional claim, the court explained: “In the instant case, the field trials of bt talong involve the willful and deliberate alterative of the genetic traits of a living element of the ecosystem and the relationship of living organisms that rely on each other for their survival.  Consequently, the field trials of bt talong could not be declared by this Court as safe to human health and to our ecology, with full scientific certainty, being an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology.”  Pages 22-23.

The Court directed the respondents to: 1) permanently cease and desist from further conducting bt talong field trials; and 2) protect, preserve, rehabilitate and restore the environment.  Page 24. 

On a motion for reconsideration filed by government officials asking the Court to  reverse the ban, the Court upheld its decision in September 2013, stating the writ of kalikasan and continuing writ of mandamus it had issued in favor of the petitioners were “justified and warranted”.