Groups advocate ecological agriculture for APEC, ASEAN member-countries

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Nov. 16 (PNA) — Members of Asia-Pacific EconomicCooperation (APEC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will be better off adapting ecological agriculture.

Environment watchdog Greenpeace Southeast Asia and two other NGOs gave such assessment, noting ecological agriculture combines modern science and respect for biodiversity so this food production alternative is safe, environment-friendly and financially sound unlikechemical-based and genetically modified (GM) farming.

“Our dream is for APEC and ASEAN members to eventually harmonize respective policies on ecological agriculture,” Greenpeace legal and political advisor Zelda Soriano said Monday .on the side of a briefing on the matter.

During the briefing, Greenpeace as well as NGOs Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) and Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) also launched a report on ecological agriculture’s advantages and dangers of GM organisms (GMOs).

The report cites ecological agriculture as the “best option to ensure food security,” promoting healthy farming and healthy food while protecting soil, water and climate which are food production essentials.

“Business as usual is no longer an option – we must promote ecological agriculture as this alternative is sustainable, helps farmers and promotes food security,” MASIPAG Exec. Dir. Dr. Chito Medina said at the briefing.

He noted some 35,000 farmers in about 62 provinces nationwide are undertaking ecological agriculture and reaping benefits from this alternative.

Studies show production cost of farmers can even exceed their potential income from GM farming due to high inputs this food production system requires, however, he said.

According to experts, GMOs are plants, animals or microorganisms produced through genetic engineering which transfers genes from one organism to another – sometimes even from one completely different specie to another.

GMOs are living organisms that multiply, breed, spread and either threaten or irreversibly alter and affect biodiversity and ecosystems “in a largely unknown and unpredictable way,” the newly launched report also warned.

SIBAT Exec. Dir. Shen Maglinte noted pollination enables GMOs to contaminate other crops and this jeopardizes Philippine biodiversity.

“”Through organic farming, however, we can grow crops without putting ourselves and the environment in danger,” he said.

He noted even Europe recognizes GMOs as dangerous.

The Philippines is hosting APEC this year with the bloc’s meeting of economic leaders set from Nov. 18 to 19.

Malaysia is also hosting the 27th ASEAN Summit this month.

Soriano noted GM farming is among topics being discussed at APEC and ASEAN meetings.

GM farming remains a contentious issue as there’s still no scientific data showing this means of producing food is truly safe for humans and the environment, however, she noted.

She said there were also no established findings supporting GM farming’s cost and benefits.

“There are legal challenges to GM farming as well,” Soriano said.

While the Philippines already established a GM crops regulatory system, she said this was far from being ideal and was not enough to serve as model for ASEAN.

The Philippines still had no law governing field testing,commercialization and other activities related to GM crops, she said.

Medina agreed, noting what government has at present is its biosafety framework only.

“We still have no biosafety law,” he said.

He noted Court of Appeals (CA) granted in 2013 various groups’petition against field testing of GM eggplant that’s also known as Bt talong.

“CA said the country has no biosafety law yet,” he said.

He added controlling transboundary flow of GM crops would be even more challenging, particularly as GMO contamination by natural and accidental means had been documented in other countries already.(PNA)