Greenpeace exposes regulatory capture in GMO assessment

Manila, 2 October 2007–Multinational agri-biotech companies have captured the process governing the approval and regulation of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in the country, beginning with concerned agencies of the Department of Agriculture, Greenpeace revealed in a press conference today.

In a new report entitled “Ties that bind: regulatory capture in the country’s GMO approval process,” Greenpeace details how almost all key personalities involved in regulating the entry of GMOs in the Philippines are members of pro-GMO lobby groups funded directly or indirectly by multinational GMO corporations, or have been involved in research projects and GMO-promotion activities sponsored by GMO lobby groups or directly by GMO manufacturers.

“The entire regulatory system for GMOs in our country is obscene. The regulatory bodies are blatantly in bed with applicant corporations. How can the regulatory system then claim even an ounce of credibility?” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo. “The convergence of corporate and narrow personal interests in the regulatory process is very telling and shows how vulnerable our experts are to corporate largesse perhaps in support of their research academic pursuits.”

During the past few years, Greenpeace has noted with growing alarm how the regulatory bodies for GMO crops have never rejected an application of a GMO from any of the giant agri-biotech corporation despite documented cases on questions of their safety and rejection by other countries, even by countries where they were developed.

“Now the public knows why: The DA and its GMO regulatory bodies prefer to look after the interests of multinational corporations, instead of rightfully exercising bias in favor of farmer interests and public health and safety as they are mandated to do,” said Ocampo.

The report names the members of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP), the DA’s Biotech Core Team (BCT) and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), and the so-called independent Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) and provides a selection of the research and undertakings of said experts. All the above agencies are in charge of assessing the safety of GMOs which seek approval in the country.

The same agencies, however, are peopled with scientists and professionals whose ties with GMO corporations and lobby groups cannot be denied. According to the report, around 80 percent of the members of the STRP, (the regulatory agency whose conclusions carry the most weight on GMO assessments) have worked, or currently work with institutions that partner with multinational GMO corporations in the research and promotion of GMO products. Some have worked directly with multinational agri-biotech companies. And even the president of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP), an aggressively pro-GMO lobby group, is a member of the supposedly “independent” panel.

The report also notes that the regulatory system for GMOs under the DA allows for conflicts of interest mostly in favor of the company or the scientist applying for a permit. Nothing in the pertinent laws (Executive Order 430 or Administrative Order 8) specifies what constitutes the “independence” of its members or officers.

“In this respect, the Department of Agriculture is a failure. The system it established to protect the public health and the environment is, on the contrary, protecting the interests of multinational GMO corporations in their quest for new markets and profit above all. The regulatory process is nothing more than a means by which a small group of scientists and government bureaucrats conspire to help multinational agricultural corporations and big interest groups to gain a further and firmer foothold in Philippine agriculture, by bringing in, with very little regard for public safety, their GMO crops, products, and technology,” said Ocampo.