Priest wants independent body to conduct GMO study

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MANILA, Oct. 9, 2012?A study from an independent body can provide impartial data on the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the Philippines, according to Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

In an interview, Gariguez said both sides of the scientific argument on whether the GMOs are safe or not are valid, but for the Church and as long as precautionary principles are concerned, GMOs are hazardous to the health and it has no conclusive findings for the safety of GM foods in humans.

Gariguez added that there are scientists who can provide some evidences that the GMOs are not safe.

“We want an independent body because if you have interests like the Department of Science and Technology that is promoting the GMOs, of course they will tell the people there’s no problem. Like the golden rice to be released in 2013. There are no evidences that it’s safe as well as the BT Talong and BT Corn,” Gariguez said.

A recipient of Goldman award for his environmental advocacies, the priest also clarified that he is not against the country’s development, but he said real development is the total human and ecological development, not only economics.

“We are not against the development. We have our social action centers all over the country that are pushing for the development of different communities. I am very familiar with the farmers and indigenous people and we want the sustainable and agriculture development,” Gariguez added.

He challenged the people and organizations promoting the GMOs to label their products if they are very sure that the GMOs are safe for human consumption and poses no danger to the country’s food security and economic sovereignty.

Gariguez also expressed fear that multinationals will eventually control the food supply in the Philippines because of their patents on GMO seeds; and that the native varieties will slowly die out.

Meanwhile, according to the Consumer Rights for Safe Food, a non-profit consumer group led by Gigi Chua, GMOs have been reported to have caused in both humans and animals antibiotic resistance, allergies, breathing difficulty, muscle weakness, lupus/multiple sclerosis-like symptoms, malnutrition, internal organ damage, diabetes, various forms of cancer, and infertility after 3 generations.

Chua also said that the GMOs pose a serious risk to the environment as they require large doses of pesticides and herbicides that can contaminate adjoining farmlands and lead to extinction beneficial species like Monarch butterflies, ladybugs and bees.

Genetic and chemical pollution can also develop superweeds, superpests and new plant viruses.

Chua furthered that GM Corn is now patented in the Philippines. “They enter our food supply as ingredients in many processed foods such as fructose, cornstarch, corn syrup, soy sauce, soya lecithin and soya milk.”

Meanwhile, reports cited that tampering with genes may result in unexpected and unpredictable results. Pigs which were genetically engineered so they will grow fast also developed bristly hair and wide muzzles. Their offspring had arthritis, ulcers, enlarged hearts, dermatitis, vision problems or organ abnormalities.

Reports added the most common plants that are genetically modified are corn, soya, canola and cotton. Most of these crops are grown in the US, Argentina, Brazil and Canada.

Countries with strict GMO laws may reject Philippine food exports if contaminated by GMOs. Countries with labeling laws are European Union, Australia, Japan and China.

Many countries now ban the production and sales of specific GM foodstuffs. These countries include Luxembourg, Germany, France, Ireland, Hungary, Greece, Venezuela, Austria, Egypt and South Africa, according to Chua.

Others, such as Australia, the European Union, Taiwan, Russia, Hongkong and South Korea, require labeling to give the consumer the choice of whether to buy or not.

Popular foods which probably contain GMOs are canola, soybean or corn oil, corn syrup, corn starch, corn chips, and soy milk.

The CBCP-NASSA and the Consumer Rights for Safe Food both encouraged buyers to participate in some activities and join groups in campaigning to rid the country of GMOs and GE ingredients, even as they urged the Department of Agriculture to stop the commercial planting of GMOs.

Consumers are also encouraged to inquire about GMO-free food from restaurants and supermarkets; and go organic by buying or raising organic produce.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs or GE foods) are plants and animals whose genes are altered in the laboratory to host a gene from another organism which may be of a different species. The foreign gene gives the host organism characteristics that it would probably never develop on its own natural environment. [SocialActionNews]




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