Supreme Court issues ‘Writ of Kalikasan’ against Golden Rice, Bt eggplant products

April 20, 2023

The Philippine Supreme Court this week issued a “Writ of Kalikasan” against the Department of Agriculture (DA), ordering it to stop the commercial propagation of genetically modified rice and eggplant products.

In a statement released on Wednesday, April 19, the Court said it issued the writ in relation to the petition filed by the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) on Oct. 12, 2022.

The group sought to stop the commercial release of genetically modified rice and eggplant products, claiming that these are genetically modified organisms (GMO) that pose risks to the environment and the health of consumers.

The petitioners claimed that Golden Rice is modified by inserting a gene from maize and a gene from bacteria extracted from soil. They also said that Bt eggplant was harmful because it produces its own toxin to kill insects that usually consume and damage regular eggplants.

A “Writ of Kalikasan” is a legal remedy under Philippine law that provides for the protection of one’s right to “a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” as provided for in Section 16, Article II of the Philippine Constitution.

The Court said it required the respondents — Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Secretary of the Department of Health, the Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and University of the Philippines – Los Baños (UPLB) — to file a verified return within 10 days.

“We welcome this move … and its recognition that these genetically modified crops pose grave danger to our environment and health,” said Alfie Pulumbarit, MASIPAG national coordinator, in a statement.

“We hope that the Supreme Court shall grant our prayer to issue [a temporary environmental protection order] against the DA to stop the commercial cultivation of Golden Rice and Bt eggplant until proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown,” said Pulumbarit.

He said it is “most urgent” that the propagation of Golden Rice and Bt eggplant “shall be stopped as our local rice diversity and associated biodiversity are at stake with the threat of gene contamination coming from these genetically modified crops.”

The Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute approved the commercial cultivation of Golden Rice in 2021, while Bt eggplant was given the green light on Oct. 18, 2022.

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