21 November 2001
PHILIPPINES: CATHOLIC CHURCH FIGHTS GM CROP
Church continues battle vs genetic-modified food
November 19, 2001
By Villamor Visaya Jr.
Inquirer News Service
ILAGAN, Isabela -- The war over genetically modified organism (GMO)-laced crops and coal mining in Isabela is far from over.
Roman Catholic Church leaders led by Bishop Sergio Utleg of the Diocese of Ilagan and priests in 35 towns and two cities in the province renewed their campaign against Bt-corn farming and coal mining.
In a pastoral letter read during last Sunday‚s Mass in churches in the province, Utleg said Bt-corn farming and coal mining have been denying "the blessings of life for millions of people."
"The church is not against development and modern technology. Rather, we want to ask our people and leaders: For whom is development? Who is to benefit from these so-called development projects and modern technology? Development must serve the needs and promote the progress of all people," Utleg said.
Fr. Gregorio Uanan, chancellor of the Diocese of Ilagan and leader of the Anti-GMO Multi-Sectoral Alliance of Isabela, assailed the Monsanto-Philippines for disclosing that Bt-corn has recorded a "high yield" in its field tests in Alinguigan 2nd in Ilagan, Carulay in Echague town, and Villaluna in Cauayan City, all in Isabela.
Monsanto is the leading proponent of Bt-corn field tests in the country.
"Naturally, it has a high yield at first . . . but eventually the corn borer gets immuned, as researches say, and farmers would end up losing income," Uanan told the INQUIRER.
Dr. Arnold Estrada, Monsanto-Philippines product development manager, has reported a "very high yield" in its field trials, a better output than what was recorded in General Santos City.
The tests, Estrada said, were proven to be a success as the firm has confirmed the resistance of Yieldgard corn against Asiatic corn borer and evaluated the corn's economic value and better grain quality.
He said Monsanto would not debate with church leaders.
He maintained, however, that Bt-corn has been proven safe after thorough testing for toxicity, nutritional values and feed values.
"Official studies conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of Environment and Protection, and the US Food and Drugs Administration have shown that Bt-corn has no adverse effects on people's health and environment," Estrada said.
Utleg said Bt-corn "does not promote the general welfare of the people nor solve the problem of poverty."
"There are credible scientists who tell us that it is toxic and that it can contaminate other corn varieties through cross-pollination," he said.
Estrada, however, said the cross-pollination of Bt-corn plants with ordinary corn does not contaminate the plants.
The Catholic Church has accused Monsanto, a United States-based agricultural company, of trying to impose a monopoly of the corn industry throughout the world.
"The solution to poverty and low productivity is genuine land reform and nationalist industrialization," Utleg said.
He called on legislators to pass a law outlawing Bt-corn field trials.
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