A regional coalition of farmers, consumers, and environment activists has called on the government to reject “foreign safety stamps” on the genetically-engineered “golden rice,” which might pose risk to public health.
The Stop Golden Rice Network asserted that such stamp of approval from other countries might be a ploy to exploit the nation’s weak regulations and policy loopholes on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in order to have the golden rice released in the Philippines.
In a statement, the coalition said the recent approval in foreign countries of the genetically-modified crop might soon lead to “start feeding trials among children and pregnant women in Philippines and Bangladesh.”
Health Canada posted its approval decision of GM Vitamin A enhanced “Golden Rice” last March 16, 2018 amid public concerns, according to the group.
The Network said the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) had also filed application for safety approval and trade clearance of golden rice last 2017 to the United States, Canada, and Australia.
But these decisions, according to the group, are questionable.
“We also question why the International Rice Research Institute is seeking safety approval from Canada, Australia, and the US while farmers and consumers in Asia who plant and eat rice as a staple are left in the dark,” said Cris Panerio of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag), a farmers network in the Philippines and a member of the Network.
“Promoting readily available, diverse, and safe Vitamin A food sources from sustainable and ecological farming is the long term solution to combat malnutrition, ensure food security and health, not genetically modified crops like Golden Rice,” he added.
Launched in 2000, golden rice is genetically-engineered to produce beta-carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A, and touted to address malnutrition and Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).
Syngenta, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation have poured millions of dollars to IRRI to develop Golden Rice in Bangladesh and the Philippines in 2011, according to the Network.
But the group said controversies and conflict have impeded its release in the past two decades.
Ana Bibal, campaign coordinator of the Network, said the approval of Health Canada and Food Standards Australia New Zealand of the golden rice was a “product of corporate lobbying.”
“Scientific findings that questions its viability, safety, and intention were left out; and social concerns were not addressed. Golden Rice will not cure blindness nor address the complex social problem of malnutrition. Instead, Golden Rice commercialization in Asia will translate to unbridled profit, massive trade of unregulated GMO rice and promotion of biofortified GM crops,” she noted.
The Stop Golden Rice! Network consists of organizations from more than 30 countries in Asia. /kga