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Leading scientist deplores lax Philippine rules on GMO trials

French molecular biologist says the government’s rubber stamp regulatory measures on GMOs akin to using “Filipino kids as guinea pigs”

March 6, 2012

QUEZON CITY  –  Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, one of the world’s leading experts on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Tuesday scored the Philippine government’s policy of allowing open field trials of GMO crops despite the absence of prior testing in confined laboratory conditions, calling the practice dangerous and unscientific.

The French molecular biologist – who is also the President of the Scientific Council for Independent Research on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) and a leading expert on GMO effects on the environment – is currently in Manila to support the campaign by local groups opposing government sanctioned environmental releases of GMOs in the country.

Despite the absence of scientific proof establishing their safety, more than 58 varieties of GMO crops have already been approved by the Department of Agriculture for importation and processing either as food or feed, including GMO food corn.  The Philippines is the first and only country in Asia to have allowed a GMO food crop to be commercially planted.  The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the government agency tasked with regulating GMOs, has also approved 67 additional genetic modifications of plants, or “transformation events.”

“At the most basic level, science requires that experiments adhere to the Precautionary Principle, which means that whenever scientific consensus is not reached regarding possible harmful effects of an action or policy, those taking the action or implementing the policy are required to protect the public and have the burden of proof to eliminate plausible harm,” said Seralini.  “Unfortunately, existing Philippine regulatory policies do not really require GMO proponents to produce thorough and convincing scientific proof that GMOs pose no hazards on human health and the environment.”  With numerous peer-reviewed research studies on this topic published in international scientific journals, Seralini presented and discussed his findings in a forum held at the Sulo Hotel today.

Seralini’s analyses of GMO experimental data, on the other hand, reveal evidence of their increasing negative impacts on animal health. For example, he cites a ninety day test on rats conducted by the GMO developers themselves, which shows signs of toxicity in the livers and kidneys of mammals eating commercialized or pre-commercialized GMOs, such as soya, corn or eggplant filled with herbicides or insecticides (mostly Roundup Ready or Bt plants).

With other scientists, Seralini has been calling on proponents to first eliminate harmful effects of GMOs, like hepatorenal toxicity (rapid deterioration of kidney functions), through confined and sustained laboratory testing first, before attempting to introduce GMO varieties into the environment via field trials.

“It is dangerous and irresponsible policy to allow the environmental releases of GMOs, especially when their long-term safety has yet to be scientifically established. Releasing these risky crops into our environment and into our diets could have far reaching and irreversible consequences on human health, ecological integrity and food security,” said Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner.

Professor Seralini added that the government’s reckless policy on GMO approvals will inevitably lead to “using Filipino kids as guinea pigs!”

Both Seralini and Greenpeace point out that the government’s lax policies on GMOs undermine the r Philippine Organic Agriculture Act, a flagship program of the Department of Agriculture under the Aquino administration.

“Co-existence between GMOs and organic crops is a myth propagated by GMO proponents,” added Ocampo.  “Time and again, studies have shown that GMO varieties eventually contaminate and overpower conventional and organic crops,” he added.