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SC issues Writ of Kalikasan vs Golden Rice, Bt eggplant


THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has issued a Writ of Kalikasan against the Department of Agriculture (DA), ordering it to stop the commercial propagation of genetically modified rice and eggplant products.

In a statement on Wednesday, the High Court said it issued the Writ of Kalikasan in relation to the petition filed by the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) on Oct. 12, 2022.

During its en banc session on Tuesday, the High Court asked the secretaries of the departments of Agriculture, Environment, Health, as well as the heads of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Philippine Rice Institute, and the University of the Philippines-Los Baños to file a verified return within 10 days.

“We welcome this move by the Supreme Court in issuing the Writ of Kalikasan on Golden Rice and Bt eggplant and its recognition that these genetically modified crops pose grave danger to our environment and health,” MASIPAG national coordinator Alfie Pulumbarit said in a statement.

MASIPAG, a group of farmers and scientists, had sought a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against the DA to stop the commercial cultivation of Golden Rice and Bt eggplant until proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown.

The group claimed the Golden Rice and Bt eggplant are genetically modified organisms (GMO) that pose risks to the environment and the health of consumers.

The petitioners claimed that Golden Rice is modified by inserting a gene from maize and a gene from bacteria extracted from soil. They also argued that Bt eggplant was harmful since it produces its own toxin to kill insects that usually consume and damage regular eggplants.

MASIPAG also sought the declaration of all biosafety permits for Golden Rice and Bt eggplant declared null and void. It also asked the DA to perform independent risk and impact assessments on the products, as well as seek prior and informed consent from farmers and indigenous peoples.

““We hope that the Supreme Court shall grant our prayer to issue the TEPO. It is most urgent that the propagation of Golden Rice and Bt eggplant shall be stopped as our local rice diversity and associated biodiversity are at stake with the threat of gene contamination coming from these genetically modified crops,” Mr. Pulumbarit said.

The High Court has not uploaded a full copy of the ruling on its website.

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy that protects citizens from environmental damage that threatens life, health, or property in two or more cities.

The Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute approved the commercial cultivation of Golden Rice in 2021, while Bt eggplant was given the green light on Oct. 18, 2022. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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