Published on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 17:30 | Written by Joel R. San Juan / Reporter
THE Court of Appeals (CA) ruled recently that ongoing field trials for Bacillus thuriengensis (Bt) talong (eggplant) in the country pose risks to human health and the environment, it was learned on Wednesday.
In a 25-page decision penned by CA Associate Justice Isaias Dicdican, the appellate court’s Special 13th Division issued a writ of kalikasan ordering the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned government agencies to stop the trials.
CA Associate Justices Myra Garcia-Fernandez and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela agreed with the decision.
According to the court’s ruling, the trials violated the people’s constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology.
“The field trials of Bt talong involve the willful and deliberate alteration of the genetics traits of a living element of the ecosystem and the relationship of living organisms that depend on each other for their survival,” the CA said.
“Consequently, the field trials…could not be declared by this Court as safe [for] human health and our ecology, [since they are] an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology,” it added.
The government, the tribunal said, has failed to adopt sufficient biosafety protocols in conducting the trials, as well as feasibility studies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to protect the environment and people’s health.
The CA noted that, based on case records, the country is yet to have a law governing the study, introduction and use of GMOs. It said what the government has are insufficient regulations issued by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System of the Environmental Management Bureau.
“True, there are biosafety regulations that we follow. However, considering the irreversible effects that the field trials, and eventually the introduction of Bt talong to the market, could possibly bring, we could not take chances,” the court said.
Tests violate Constitution
THE case of the field trials began when environmental group Greenpeace, the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pagpapaunlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag) and other individuals filed a petition arguing that the tests violated Filipinos’ constitutional right to a balanced and healthy ecology.
They claimed that the trials might contaminate native genetic resources and cause an imbalance in the environment.
But the respondents—the DENR, the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños Foundation Inc., UP Mindanao Foundation Inc., International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications-Southeast Asia Center—disagreed, insisting that the trials were safe and harmless.
In its ruling, the CA said clear standards governing the study and research of GMOs should be adopted, and also ordered the respondents to rehabilitate the areas affected by the trials.