Landmark law bans GMOs in Negros, the Philippines

Landmark law bans GMOs in Neg. Occidental
by Carla Gomez
Daily Star (Philippines), April 27 2007

The Negros Occidental Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed Wednesday a landmark legislation that bans the entry of genetically modified plants and animals in the province and imposes penalties for its violation.

Provincial Ordinance No. 07, Series of 2007, or "The Safeguard Against Living Genetically-Modified Organisms", was sponsored by Board Member Adolfo Mangao Sr., chairman of the SP Committee on Agriculture.

The ordinance helps bring Negros Island a step closer to its goal of becoming the organic food bowl of Asia, Patrick Belisario, executive director of the Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Foundation Inc., said yesterday. In Aug. 24, 2005, Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon and Oriental Negros Gov. George Arnaiz signed a memorandum of agreement committing to 10 percent organic production islandwide by the year 2010 and to the banning of GMOs.

The MOA also committed to both provinces creation of the Negros Island Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Foundation (NISARD) to carry out both governors commitment to the islandwide development of organic agriculture.

The ordinance passed by the Negros Occidental SP Wednesday states that it is aimed at "instituting stringent measures towards the protection of biodiversity and attainment of the status of Negros as an Organic Food Island in Asia by banning the entry, importation and introduction of genetically-modified plants and animals within the territorial jurisdiction of the province of Negros Occidental". The legislation partly fulfills the commitment of the two Negros governors to legislate the ban on GMOs in the entire Negros Island, Belisario said.

In due time, the Oriental Negros provincial government is expected to pass a parallel ordinance to complement the efforts achieved in Negros Occidental, he said.

The ordinance states that persons violating the ban on GMOs in Negros Occidental will be fined not more than P5,000 or face imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, at the discretion of the court for each and every defined violation.

Where the violator is a corporation organization, the heads of such groups will be held directly liable, the ordinance adds.

All Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) brought into Negros Occidental will be seized and destroyed at the expense of the violator, the ordinance also states.

The ordinance defines LMO as any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

The ordinance also prohibits the planting, growing, selling and trading of living GMOs within the territorial jurisdiction of Negros Occidental.

All persons who have already planted LMOs in Negros Occidental at the time of the effectivity of the ordinance have 120 days to terminate growing them provided that when they are harvested they be disposed of outside the jurisdiction of the province, the ordinance adds.

All those selling and trading LMOs also have 30 days from the effectivity of the ordinance to dispose of their products outside the jurisdiction of Negros Occidental, it states.

Organic farming, as the most sustainable method of agricultural production, addresses multi-dimensional issues on food security, income diversification, food safety, ecological protection and balance, renewable energy and others, Belisario said.

Organic farming regulations around the globe prohibit the use of products derived from genetic modification, Belisario said, adding that some importing countries of organic products are now requiring certification that products are GMO free, aside from the mandatory organic certification.

The ban on GMO creates favorable business environment for groups like NGO’s, cooperatives, people’s organizations and even agribusiness companies to make available in commercial quantities the supply of organic seeds, fertilizers and botanical pest control, feeds for livestock and poultry and fisheries, he said.

These inputs are needed to support the commitment to devote approximately 80,000 hectares of the agricultural lands to organic production in the entire Negros Island, Belisario said.

Negros is famous for its lone organic export of muscovado sugar product mostly to Europe, which is coping with the growing demand as ingredient for organic chocolate and other confectionery products, he said.

Around the globe, it was estimated in 2005 that the market for organic products have reached the US $30 Billion mark and the area devoted to organic agriculture is approximately over 25 million hectares, he said.

In the Philippines, the organic market is enjoying a higher average growth rate between 30-50 percent annually than the global annual growth between 10-30 percent, he said.

Clearly, the demand for organic products outstrips the existing production supply and Negros Island has much to offer in terms of organic production, Belisario said.*CPG 

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