The Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment or SEARICE, one of several civil society organizations opposing the commercial release of the genetically engineered (GE) Golden Rice, is bringing the campaign to the Philippine Senate, urging the body to conduct a Senate Inquiry related to said GE rice. SEARICE will consider the positive responses from the members of the Philippine Senate as their gift to all Filipino women, celebration of International Women’s Day. SEARICE recognizes women in the world as having a significant role in ensuring food safety and nutrition in the family.
In a letter sent to the members of the Senate, SEARICE stressed that the Philippines and the Filipino people are placed at risk with the introduction of Golden Rice. The Senators were also informed in the same letter that a 1 million-signature petition was launched, urging Pres. Benigno Aquino III for a moratorium on the release of Golden Rice, based on the following grounds:
- The constitutional right “to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature” as provided in Article II, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution. President Aquino is being asked to STOP THE RELEASE OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED GOLDEN RICE INTO THE PHILIPPINE ENVIRONMENT, adding that the Philippines is part of the center of origin for rice, and is one of the mega-diverse countries in the world. Despite past studies showing that genetically engineered crops pose irreversible threats to agricultural biodiversity, the Philippine regulatory agencies have done no environmental impact assessment studies to determine the effects of Golden Rice to our biodiversity.
- The constitutional right to health under Article II, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution. It is asserted therein the need to protect the future of the country by ensuring the health of the littlest and most vulnerable in the population. Further, it was highlighted that the Filipino children have the right to “enjoy the highest attainable standard of health”as provided by UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The State must ensure their “right to proper care and nutrition” as mandated under Article XV, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution.It was stressed that the Golden Rice project aims to address Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) among poor children without considering health impacts, decrying that children are treated as guinea pigs by their own government in collusion with industry. Feeding potentially harmful Golden Rice to children constitutes child abuse under the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act (RA 7610).
- The constitutional right to information and public participation under Section 28, Article II of 1987 Constitution and Executive Order No. 514 which called for the establishing the National Biosafety Framework. It is claimed that neither genuine and independent information campaign nor public consultations were undertaken to inform the Filipino public and allow the Filipino public decide on the release of these genetically modified rice.
The Senators were reminded that many countries worldwide are now rejecting or banning GMOs. It was also shared that in the Philippines, the Provinces of Bohol & Negros already passed ordinances banning entry and cultivation of GMOs. An appeal to the good conscience of the Senators to investigate the issue and take a strong position not to release it commercially in defense of our children and their children’s children was issued.