Greenpeace to Bayer: ‘Hands off our rice!’

Manila, 18 November 2009—Greenpeace today challenged Bayer to stop contaminating the world’s rice supply with GMOs (genetically modified organisms), during a forum on rice genetics sponsored by the giant agrochemical company and hosted by IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) in Manila.

Campaigners from the international environment organization also distributed folders with the message “Hands off our rice!” and containing the Greenpeace report “Bayer Double Trouble: When genetically engineered rice meets a toxic pesticide”(1) to Bayer representatives, as well as postcards which show the ecological and social benefits of non-chemical and non-GMO farming to attending scientists.

“Greenpeace is sending a message to Bayer that genetically modified rice is not wanted in the Philippines nor in any other part of the world. Bayer’s motivations for developing GMO rice is driven purely by corporate greed and its intentions in seeking approval for GMO rice commercialization is a desperate effort to legalize contaminated rice supplies,” said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Engineering Campaigner. “GMOs have never been proven safe for the environment and human health and most likely will have irreversible impacts on the unique biodiversity of rice-crops. Worse, corporate controlled GMOs further endanger farmers livelihoods and food security.”

Bayer massively contaminated US rice crops in 2006 with an experimental GMO rice strain, LL601, a sister line to LL62 (2). The agro-chemical company is pushing for legal approval of the said GMO rice in countries such as Brazil, South Africa, the EU, India and the Philippines. LL62 has been genetically-engineered to withstand high doses of glufosinate, sprayed on rice fields by farmers to kill a wide range of weeds. The weeds will die, the GMO rice will survive. Thus, any use of the Bayer GMO rice will lead to an increased use of the toxic herbicide—undoubtedly boosting sales of Bayer’s glufosinate as a consequence. It will also lead to higher risks for farmers, consumers and the environment. Glufosinate is considered to be so dangerous to humans that it will soon be banned in Europe in accordance with recently-adopted EU legislation (3).

Bayer applied for the legalization of LL62 in the Philippines in August 2006. In September 2007, following a legal petition questioning the constitutionality of the Department of Agriculture’s GMO approval process, a Philippine court ordered an injunction to stop LL62 approval. The court decision stated that “a sampling of the petitioners evidence show that there is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to 1) information of public concern, 2) protection and promotion of health, and 3) a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

However, the Writ of Injunction issued in 2007 was set aside by the Court of Appeals early this month, after Bayer filed a petition. Greenpeace says that a motion for reconsideration regarding this latest decision will be filed.

“Greenpeace is actively campaigning to prevent the approval of Bayer LL62. The entry of GMO rice into the country’s food chain will have disastrous consequences on the Philippines’ most important food. The approval of Bayer LL62 will also set a dangerous precedent that will open the floodgates to the future entry of other dangerous GMO rice strains into the country,” said Ocampo.

“Greenpeace further believes that Bayer should not in any way influence the long term direction of public institution research and funding by diverting the attention of agricultural scientists to genetic engineering particularly when there are better and safer options, such as Marker Assisted selection for addressing the need to improve crop varieties,” he added.

Greenpeace campaigns for a future of ecological rice production that ensures biodiversity, protects soils, water and natural habitats, safeguards the rights of farmers and consumers, helps mitigate climate change even as it adopts to its impacts, and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or genetic modified organisms.