Philippines is frontline in global fight over GMOs, expert says

The war on genetically-manipulated organisms (GMOs) goes on, and the Philippines is its battleground, according to Dr. Wayne Parrott, a plant breeding and genomics expert from the University of Georgia.

All eyes were on the Philippines when anti-GMO groups KMB and Sikwal-GMO destroyed a field-testing ground for Golden Rice in a Department of Agriculture (DA) compound in Pili, Camarines Sur on August 8.

Golden Rice is a beta carotene-enriched variety being developed to combat Vitamin A deficiency.

The field-testing done in Pili, Camarines Sur was only one of five being done by the Department of Agriculture to ensure that they are suitable for cultivation before being distributed commercially.

"The global spotlight is now on the Philippines," Parrott said in a media workshop on September 27.

"With the recent destruction of (golden) rice that took place here in the Philippines, you know the center of development has been here. It attracted global attention as it had never attracted it before," he said.

"Golden rice had more positive press out of that one act of vandalism than it (ever) had up until now."

Worldwide attention

The vandalism prompted a petition signed by over 6,000 plant scientists worldwide condemning the destruction of the field-testing site.

"No group, regardless of its intentions, has the right to condemn a technology without evidence. It is an unconscionable criminal act to destroy a field trial conducted in accordance to international safety norms," the statement said.

Parrott also cited a New York Times article entitled "Golden Rice: Lifesaver?" that featured the destruction of the field trial that "touched a nerve among scientists around the world".

"A looming decision by the Philippine government about whether to allow Golden Rice to be grown beyond its four remaining field trials has added a new dimension to the debate over the technology's merits," the article said.

A warning

What happens to golden rice will be a pivotal event.

"Golden rice is seen by many groups, particularly anti-GMO lobbyists, as the one last thing that stands between a world free of GMOs and a world where all the crops are GMOs," Parrott said.

Anti-GMO lobbyists will make "every attempt possible" to stop golden rice. And both camps will be fighting for its claims.

"Expect more lawsuits, and a lot of very deliberate information and deception," he said. "This is ground zero. This is the frontline." — TJD,

GMA News

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