DA warns of corn, soybean shortages if SC does not lift ban on GM crops
MANILA — An official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) warned on Wednesday that the country might face a shortage in soy beans and corn should the Supreme Court (SC) decide to affirm its earlier ruling, which essentially banned the importation of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Saturnina Halos, chair of the DA’s Biotech Advisory Team, said that the high tribunal’s ruling in December temporarily voiding DA Administrative Order No. 8, series of 2002, would affect not only the supply of these crops but also jack up the prices of products derived from them.
The DA order sets out the rules and regulations for the importation and release into the environment of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology. The SC temporarily voided the application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization, and importation of genetically modified organisms “until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with the law.”
Halos said in a press forum on Wednesday that should the high court decide against the motion for reconsideration filed recently by various groups, the country might have a hard time looking for sources of non-GM soybean and corn.
The Philippines imports 98 percent of its soybean supply from countries that grow GM crops such as Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the United States, according to Halos. She furthered that even soy-producing countries like Indonesia still rely on the crop’s imported GM variety.
Based on their 2004 study, Halos said that by solely relying on non-GM crops, it would jack up the prices of derived products by up to “20 percent.”
While some may view this as an insignificant increase to, for example, soy-derived products like soy sauce and tofu, Halos said that it would be “a big increase for our poor countrymen.”
It is important for the country to have a mix of GM crops, especially those that can adapt or are resistant to the effects of climate change such as drought, according to Halos. She also allayed fears that GM crops would have adverse effects on one’s health.
“Before we release any GM crop in the environment, it is carefully studied if there are any health effects. We also ensure that it complies with international standards,” she said.
Last week, the National Academy of Science and Technology, an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology, decried as “too harsh” the high court’s decision to nullify the DA order.
“It must be pointed out that this move, if not clarified, will have serious repercussions on the research and development activities especially in plant breeding, as well as the flow of the supply of food and feed, specifically those that are based on crops largely harvested from transgenic lines, like soybean and corn,” NAST said in a statement, warning that a “possible disruption in the supply chain may cause food security issues in the near future.” SFM
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