By: Karen Graham
Manila - The Supreme Court of the Philippines has ordered a permanent ban on field trials of GM eggplant, and a temporary halt to approving applications “contained use, import, commercialization and propagation” of GMO crops and products.
The Supreme Court decision is historic because it sets a global precedent as the first decision to be made using the Writ of Kalikasan — a legal environmental remedy found only in the Philippines.
Specifically, the Writ of Kalikasan, as outlined in Section 16, Article II of the Philippine Constitution, says that the "state shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature." "Kalikasan" is a Filipino word for "nature."
The ruling builds on a wave of European countries who have rejected genetically engineered crops and, according to Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Ecological Agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, is a serious setback for the GMO industry.
EcoWatch quoted Benosa-Liorin: “The Philippines has been used as a model for GE regulatory policy around the world, but now we are finally making progress to give people a right to choose the food they want to eat and the type of agriculture they want to encourage.”
The temporary ban is in place until a new "administrative order" takes effect. The ban includes the controversial GM "golden rice," an experimental project by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The GM golden rice project is back in the research and development stage because of poor crop yields and performance.
The ruling is not expected to effect the new genetically modified BT-corn grown since 2014 in the country. BT corn has been genetically modified to include resistance to pests and to herbicides. GM BT corn with these two traits is used in many countries, in Europe and the U.S.
Erring on the side of caution
In another first for the Philippine Supreme Court is the decision to adopt a precautionary principle, deciding it is best to err on the side of caution in the absence of a scientific consensus with regard to GMO crops.
“This case vindicates the many cases of genetic contamination we and others have highlighted, as well as the simple fact that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically engineered crops,” said Benosa-Llorin. “It’s a major victory for Filipinos, especially for farmers struggling with incidents of genetic contamination.”
The decision to adopt this precautionary principle invalidates the Department of Agriculture's Administrative Order No. 08-2002 (DAO8), barring the country's Agricultural and Science and Technology agencies from issuing any genetically engineered crop approvals. The decision also affects the trade of GM products.
Originally Published: Digital Journal