SC issues ‘kalikasan’ writ on GM rice, eggplant

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THE Supreme Court has issued writ of kalikasan enjoining the commercial release of genetically modified rice and eggplant products.

This was announced by the SC-Public Information Office (PIO) in a statement released Wednesday in connection with the petition for the writ of kalikasan filed by Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag).    

The petition sought to stop the government from commercially releasing the products, insisting that Golden Rice and Bacillus thuringiensis Eggplant (Bt Eggplant) are genetically modified organisms, a cause for environmental concern.    

The writ of kalikasan was issued during the regular en banc session of the SC on April 18.    

In 2015, the SC permanently enjoined the government from further conducting field trials,  propagation and commercialization, and from importing GMOs being used on plants due to risks it these supposedly pose to human health and the environment.   

The SC affirmed the Court of Appeals decision in 2013, granting the petition of Greenpeace and  copetitioners Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pagpapaunlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag) and several other individuals for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan against the field testing of BT talong.    

The groups argued that the conduct of BT talong field trials has violated the constitutional right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology.    

During its regular en banc session last April 18, the Court also required the respondents—Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 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 from service.   

The group filed last October 12, 2022 the petition for writ of kalikasan and continuing mandamus (With Prayer for Issuance of Temporary Environmental Protection Order) before the SC,  seeking the issuance of a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO).

 The petition  sought to direct  the  respondent DA to refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and issuing biosafety permits for commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant; cease and desist from commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant until such time that proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown;  declare all biosafety permits for Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant null and void; and  perform independent risks and impact assessments, obtain the prior and informed consent of farmers and indigenous peoples, and implement liability mechanisms in case of damage, as required by law.  

 Petitioners alleged, among others, that  Bt Eggplant  are genetically modified organisms.   

They added that Golden Rice, which is patented to Syngenta, a transnational agrochemical corporation, has been modified by inserting a gene from maize and a gene from bacteria found in soil which allows the plant to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice.   

They also argued that Bt Eggplant was designed so that the plant would  produce its own toxin, to kill the fruit and shoot borer, which is one of several  common pests that consume and damage eggplants.    

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

Image credits: Mike Gonzalez via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0