Text power, blog, used in campaign against GMO rice

Manila, 16 March 2007–Hundreds of text messages stating “I love my rice GMO-free” kept Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap’s phone busy from 12 noon to 1 PM of March 15. His new textmates: Filipino consumers demanding GMO-free rice and rice production. The text barrage was the World Consumers’ Day activity that is part of Greenpeace’s campaign against GMO rice.

The text brigade also marked the launch of Greenpeace’s “I love my rice GMO-free” web campaign today. The campaign includes a cyber petition addressed to the DA, kits for spreading the campaign to friends and acquaintances, and a rice blog open to the public for posting. The web campaign may be accessed through www.greenpeace.org.ph.

“If we care about what we eat we have to do everything to protect our food,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering campaigner Daniel Ocampo. “Rice, our most important staple food, is under threat. Instead of entertaining the application of the GMO rice Bayer LL62, which is rejected in other parts of the world, the DA should ensure that our rice supply is safe both to the environment and human health.”

The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), an attached agency of the DA, is currently reviewing an application for the approval of a GMO rice strain, Bayer LL62, for food, feed and processing in the country. Bayer LL62 is rice genetically-manipulated to resist the powerful weed-killer glufosinate which is meant to be used in conjunction with the said GMO crop.

Greenpeace has been actively blocking the approval of Bayer LL62, asserting that the entry of GMO rice in the country’s food chain will have disastrous consequences on the country’s most important food crop.

If Bayer LL62 is approved, the Philippines may become the dumping ground of GMO rice rejected by the rest of the world. LL62 has been granted approval in only one country, the US. But the GMO rice, and a related strain, Bayer LL601, is facing global consumer rejection.

Bayer LL601 and LL62 figured in a global rice scandal when it contaminated US long grain rice stocks last year. US long grain rice became either regulated or rejected in major markets including the EU, Japan, Russia, and the Philippines. The latest to close its doors to US long grain rice imports is Mexico, The US’ largest rice export market, which now requires GMO-free certification before any entry of US rice.

A report by the USA Rice Federation earlier this week confirmed that 47% the US rice market has been affected by the GMO rice scandal. The California Rice Commission has also asked for moratorium on the planting of GMO rice in the state. And in an even bigger move last Friday, the US Department of Agriculture has banned the sale of conventional (non-GMO) rice seeds which US officials have discovered to contain traces of the GMO Bayer LL601, which is not approved for cultivation even in the US.

“The rest of the world is rejecting GMO rice. But here’s the BPI and the DA entertaining Bayer’s GMO rice LL62 application in the Philippines. They must be crazy. This is rice we’re talking about–it’s our most precious food,” said Ocampo.

“We all have the right to demand that the DA abandon all plans to introduce GMO rice into our country. It’s time for us to stand up for our rice.”

Greenpeace campaigns for GMO-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.

For further information please contact:
Daniel Ocampo, GE campaigner, +63 917 897 6416
Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 2 434 7034 loc 104, +63 916 374