(GREENPEACE ASIA) by LEA GUERRERO - Greenpeace today called on Filipinos to be more vigilant in protecting rice, our most important staple food, from contamination from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) as the hearings for the Petition for Injunction against the application of a GMO rice began this week. Greenpeace is contesting the approval process for GMOs in the country, particularly in relation to a pending application of the GMO rice Bayer LL62 which, if approved, will be the first genetically-altered rice in the country.

At the latest hearing which ended late afternoon yesterday, Judge Evangeline Miagomen of Branch 101 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) expressed that the court is inclined to grant the appeal of the petitioners for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to inhibit the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) from approving the application of Bayer LL62 prior to the hearing on the issuance of an injunction. Should the TRO be issued, this would be the first in connection with the country's approval process for genetically-modified organisms. The hearings for the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction are slated to start on the second week of September.

"We want the public to feel the urgency of protecting our staple food from the adverse effects of GMO contamination. Filipinos should now take this opportunity to ensure that the Department of Agriculture rejects Bayer's GMO rice application and keeps our rice supply GMO-free," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

The Petition for Injunction which Greenpeace filed last week questions the lack of public voice and public consultation on GMO approvals by the Department of Agriculture and its attached agency the Bureau of Plant Industry, particularly in the case of Bayer LL62's application. Greenpeace contends that the approval process for GMOs in the country is unconstitutional, violating Article II, secs. 16 and 17 and Article III, sec. 7 of the 1987 Constitution (right to health, right to a healthful ecology, and right to information on matters of public concern, respectively).

Among the grounds cited in the petition are: 1. the "public consultation" requirements under DA AO 8 are grossly insufficient and violate the minimum standards set by the 1987 Constitution in recognizing the right of the people to matters of public concern under Article III, Section 7; 2. the pro forma requirement on public consultation in DA AO 8 impairs the policy set in AO 8 itself to guarantee protection to health and the environment, consistent with the constitutional guarantees under Article II, Sections 16 and 17; and that 3. unless restrained by the courts, with the mere publication of Bayer's Public Information Sheet (PIS) on the GMO rice LL62 as the sole requirement under AO 8 to indicate the conduct of public consultation, there is no "legal" obstacle that would prevent the DA and the BPI from approving GMO rice Bayer LL62 for direct use in feed, food and for processing.

The GMO rice Bayer LL62 is rice whose DNA has been injected with genetic material from an entirely different organism to resist glufosinate, a powerful weed killer also produced by Bayer, which is meant to be used in conjunction with the said crop. Bayer filed an application with the BPI last August 2006 for the approval of the said GMO rice in the Philippines. Greenpeace has repeatedly requested the BPI for official information regarding the application. The DA and the BPI, however, have been quiet, stating only that it is under review and that Bayer has "complied" with the requirement to submit a PIS under DA AO 8.

To date, there has been no substantial disclosure by BPI nor the DA to the public regarding the application and the actual status of the application. But, if approved, Bayer LL62 will be the first genetically-modified rice in the Philippines. The Philippines will also be the first country in the world to approve a genetically-altered strain of its most important staple food crop.

Petitioners, aside from Greenpeace, SEARICE and members of civil society, Bb. Pilipinas Universe Anna Theresa Licaros, celebrities Angel Aquino and Amanda Griffin, as well as an additional group of almost 200 farmer petitioners.

For more information: Daniel Ocampo, GE campaigner, +63 917 897 6416 Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 2 434 7034 loc 104, +63 916 374 4969

-- Lea Guerrero Media Campaigner Greenpeace Southeast Asia tel: +63 2 434 7034 loc 104 fax: +63 2 434 7035 mob: +63 916 374 4969 skype: leaguerrero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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