ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
18 January 2003


"In Maltang, a thousand farmers and supporters uprooted the test Bt corn in protest against the government's approval leading to GE contamination. The suspicious circumstances behind the approval of Monsanto's Bt corn licence needs to be investigated." (item 2)

2.Monsanto in the Philippines



January 17, 2003
Dow Jones [via Agnet]

Sao Paulo - The Brazilian government was cited as apprehending a U.S. corn shipment this week after traces of genetically modified produce were found and have demanded it be return or for it to be incinerated, according to an Agriculture Ministry press statement.

Health and safety officers at the southern port of Itajai discovered a small amount of GMO produce, which is illegal in Brazil, in a 7,400-metric-ton load. The corn was being imported by the National Starch Chemical Industrial which produces starch for both the food and paper industries, said press reports.


2.BusinessWorld (The Philippines) January 16, 2003

Monsanto's Bt corn
Bernardo V. Lopez

Monsanto is an American multinational which recently got a  controversial license to commercially produce a GE crop,  namely the Bt Corn. Prior to this, Monsanto, together with  another American multinational, Pioneer Hi-bred, had  licenses, but only for field testing of Bt corn. Pioneer  used Monsanto's Bt corn strain in its tests. Pioneer has  announced it will apply for the same commercial license  that Monsanto got. Monsanto is a producer of highly toxic  chemicals not only for industrial, but also for military  uses. It is the maker of the deadly PCB and the infamous  Agent Orange, the powerful defoliant used in the Vietnam  war which led to the biggest class action suit in the US  ever, when thousands of GIs developed warped reproductive  systems. Bt stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria  which naturally produces a powerful insecticide. The gene  traits of the bacteria were integrated into the genes of  the Bt corn, which has now become resistant to the corn  borer, a known corn pest. American farmers, however, report  that the corn borer is now developing immunity to the  toxin, nullifying the benefits of Bt corn in the long term.  Filipino organic farmers have effective non-chemical ways  of vanquishing the corn borer by simply "timing" the  planting date. This concept is actually a thousand years  old, used by Hanunoo Mangyans during pre-Hispanic times. We  therefore have no use for Bt corn. The controversy involves  questions of how safe Bt corn is, not only to humans but to  the entire ecology. In the past, insects fed with Bt corn  died, specifically the Monarch butterfly and the Lacewing.

 In spite of this, pro-GE scientists claim it is safe for  humans. They say the DNA of the Bt corn would not survive  the human stomach. The British Medical Association,  however, reported to the Scottish parliament that there  were questions regarding its safety. A study by the  University of Newcastle also reported that in a human feed  test, the DNA of GE-soya indeed survived the human stomach,  implying that the claims of pro-GE scientists were wrong.    Aside from harm to humans, the issue is ecological. In  Europe, Monsanto's license application for the gene  sequences of its GE soya was approved. Later, a Belgian  scientists discovered additional sequences not seen by  Monsanto, which their scientists pooh-poohed as "junk DNA."  In other words, GE is still a new and imprecise technology  with many dangerous unknowns. These unseen gene sequences  can yield ecological havoc, disrupting ecological balance  or the food chain, which may be discovered only later, when  it is irreversible. This is the core issue in GE technology. It is irreversible because once we plant Bt corn here, its  windblown or insect-carried pollen can contaminate non-Bt  corn near the area. In other words, if the Philippines goes  GE now and these problems prop up later, it will be too  late to reverse the situation. This is why Brazil and  European nations are adamantly against GE. The original  field testing done by Monsanto and Pioneer were in open  fields, in violation of the ecological requirement for  closed greenhouses to avoid contamination. They were not  sensitive to the harm, but only to the quality of their  product. And the government failed to see this. Countries  which go GE are normally poor Third World countries like  Indonesia and Latin American nations or rich Old World  countries like France and Germany. In Third World  countries, there have been reports of government officials  accepting luxurious junkets from multinationals in return  for endorsement. In the affluent Old World, where this is  not practiced, the movement against GE is naturally  stronger. GE actually emanates from the US and Canada, the  biggest producer of Bt corn. They need this to minimize  production cost of beef and poultry. Also, through GE, the  multinationals will have a monopoly on GE seeds sold to  farmers, making the Third World dependent on multinationals  for its food security. This means huge windfall profits for  Monsanto and Pioneer. Although no negative effects have  been seen in livestock or in humans taking Bt corn in the  US or Canada so far, there have been no exhaustive studies  on its effects. Remember that after claiming it was "safe,"  it took about 10 years after its release before an  anti-cholesterol pill was pulled out of the global market  last year because many deaths were traced to it.

The  announced provinces for commercial production of Bt corn  are Isabela, Bukidnon and South Cotabato, the same areas  for field tests. It is critical for the general public to  know these "GE corn-contaminated villages" due to open-air  field tests: in Isabela: Alinguigan 2nd in Ilagan; Carulay  in Echague, and Villaluna in Cauayan. In Bukidnon: Centro  Poblacion in Dangcagan, West Poblacion in Kibawe and  Kadilangan, and San Miguel in Maramag. In South Cotabato:  Glamang in Polomolok; Liberty and Maltang in Tampakan; and  Paraiso in Koronadal. Finally, Palayon in Tigaon in  Camarines Sur and Lagao in General Santos City. In Maltang,  a thousand farmers and supporters uprooted the test Bt corn  in protest against the government's approval leading to GE  contamination. The suspicious circumstances behind the  approval of Monsanto's Bt corn license needs to be  investigated. Bureau of Plant Industries (BPI) director Blo  Umpar Adiong, in a "midnight decision," approved the  license on Dec. 4, 2002, one day before former Agriculture  secretary Montemayor stepped down from office. Montemayor  reported that he was never informed of the decision. Current Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo denied he approved  it, but added that there was "nothing wrong" with GE crops,  giving his implicit approval. DoH joined the fray with an  official statement saying GE is safe in spite of the lack  of studies and data, and in spite of the claim of the  British Medical Association questioning its safety. Why are  government people pro-GE? Ask Indonesia and Latin America  where the junkets were reported. Are multinationals  offering all sorts of jobs or benefits or trips or plain  "consulting fees" to those who have influence in the  approval of licenses? We direct this question to Monsanto,  Pioneer, to the DA, BPI, DoST, NCBP and DoH, the government  agencies which are pro-GE and were somehow instrumental to  approving licenses. The National Commission on Bio-safety  of the Philippines (NCBP), which the Department of Science  and Technology (DoST) chairs, approved the erroneous  open-air field tests conducted by Monsanto and Pioneer. Are  we being had by our own people in government in cahoots  with powerful multinationals with their big PR budgets? Or  are they all beyond suspicion? We demand some answers from  Monsanto and those mentioned above.

This article is based on interviews of Greenpeace and Searice, which lead the protest over the proliferation of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the Philippines.

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