Gov’t agencies extend consultation for draft of joint circular on GMOs

By , on February 18, 2016


MANILA—Government line agencies involved in the drafting of the DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have extended consultation process “to accommodate all the concerns of the stakeholders especially the small farmers and environment groups for the betterment of the draft version.”

Dr. Jayme C. Montoya of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and chair of the committee for the joint administrative order on the use of genetically modified organisms, said that the extension was arrived at after members of the Technical Working Group agreed on the need to prolong the consultation to give more time to listen and get several inputs for the general welfare.

These government agencies are the Departments of Agriculture (DA), Science and Technology (DOST), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Health (DOH), and Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Montoya said the extended period will help in hammering-out all the details that would be in accordance to the issues raised by the Supreme Court.

It may be recalled that the fifth public consultation held on Wednesday at the DA central office in Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City and attended by various stakeholders who shared their inputs, suggestions and recommendations as that they want to be included to further improve the draft document.

The joint administrative order will be based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Cartagena Protocol is an international agreement which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.

It was adopted on January 29, 2000 and entered into force on September 11, 2003.

In line with the legal mandate, after the said public consultation, the joint circular will also be submitted to the Office of the Solicitor General for its final recommendation.

Consultations were made in compliance to the order issued by the High Court in December 2015 which nullified all importations, applications, testing and commercialization of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology.

The SC earlier said DA order 08-2002 failed to meet the minimum requirements for safety under Executive Order 514, which requires a more transparent, meaningful and participatory public consultation on the conduct of field trials beyond the posting and publication of notices, consultations with some residents and government officials, and submission of written assessment and no socio-economic consideration.

The decision of the high court invalidates the DA’s Administrative Order No. 08-2002 (DAO8)

The issuance of the joint circular is targeted before the end of the month while publication is set within the next 15 days after issuance.

The approval of the joint circular also aims to prevent a disruption in the food supply chain especially for the feed milling industry and this coincides with the poultry, livestock and aqua breeders as well.

The country’s feed milling industry, which supplies the local livestock, poultry and aqua breeders are in a tight bind and could opt for the more expensive non-GMO sources, which could cost US$ 80 to US$ 100 a ton.

The higher production costs for the producers will be passed on as higher prices of protein sources (pork, beef and chicken meat, eggs, fish) for Filipino consumers.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, imports of soybean meal, which amount to around 2 million tons a year, mainly come from the U.S.

Nearly all of the imports of the animal feed are genetically modified

The next big supplier is Argentina, but still GMO soybean meal, the report added.

Local yellow corn may be another source of feed ingredient, but in more than 12 years, the country’s robust corn production, which nears the 8 million metric tons self-sufficiency levels, had been dependent on GMO corn seeds, a report by the US Agricultural Service said.

Corn is the preferred feed grain by local end-users.

However, only an estimated 15 percent of the domestic corn harvest is dried appropriately for feed use.

Local industry contacts report that, as a result, Philippine feed millers prefer imported corn grain to avoid aflatoxin.

Meanwhile, one of the stakeholders who attended the series of consultation said that in his belief, the SC decision is ill advised.

“The decision is ill-advised because AO8, for all its perceived weaknesses, has been a very effective biosafety tool,” said Eufemio T Rasco Jr., a Plant breeder and Academician.

Rasco added that AO 8 gave life to a dying corn industry, an industry that affects not only a staple food, but also poultry and hog industries.

“It has given millions of our corn farmers the tools they need to compete in the face of globalization. By nullifying AO8, the SC killed the goose that laid the golden eggs,” he explained.