GM crops can't be grown near organic zones

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

GENETICALLY modified crops cannot be grown near organic zones because of the high risk of contamination, organic farming advocate group Idis said.

In a statement sent to Sun.Star Davao, Idis executive director Ann Fuertes said the initial discovery by Greenpeace regarding the contamination of the local white corn with the genetically modified BT variety in Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat late last year was an indication that the danger is real.

"This development should alarm not only Davao City but also other local government units in Mindanao which have local ordinances on organic agriculture because this can undermine the integrity of our organic farming initiatives", Fuertes said.


Idis, together with the Third World Network (TWN), an international organization involved in Third World environment issues, have organized a legislator's forum to help clarify these issues and underscore the potential dangerous impact of GMOs to Davao's growing organic movement.

TWN's lawyer Lee Aruelo said that GMO contamination is a legitimate concern since gene transfer is a natural process which cannot be stopped.

"Whether through environmental or physical factors, nature will always find a way to distribute its genes in an open environment so in the case of GMOs growing near organic zones, genetic contamination will most certainly occur,” Aruelo said.

Aruelo brought along TWN's scientific consultant, Camilo Beltran, a post-genomics researcher to explain the risks of contamination among GMO and organic crops.

Beltran's specialty is post-genomics which is the study of how genes are transferred among organisms and how they influence biochemistry and metabolism of the organisms.

He has been working as a consultant in biosafety, biodiversity and global issues and is a frequent speaker in a number of international conferences around the world.

Aruelo called for the enactment of a Ban GMO Ordinance to complement Davao City's Organic Agriculture Ordinance.

"Unless the whole city is declared a GM-free zone, Davao's organic zones will be at a continued risk of contamination by GM seeds being sold to farmers in the area," she said.

Fuertes agreed, saying that a legislation banning GMO will complement the current OA Ordinance, ensuring that the local organic food economy will be sustained, benefitting Davao's small organic farmers.

"We've already made some significant strides in implementing our OA Ordinance. We can't let the specter of GMO contamination undo what we have accomplished so far," she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 16, 2014.

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