Philippines Supreme Court decision on GMOs is a dark day for science

First published in the Inquirer, Philippines, 15 December 2015

THE DECISION by the Philippines’ Supreme Court to uphold the ban on GMO Bt talong (eggplant) field trials is a huge disappointment to the scientific community and others pursuing the dream of sustainable and progressive agriculture in this country.

The Court upheld the Writ of Kalikasan originally demanded by Greenpeace and other anti-GMO groups in 2012 and backed by the Court of Appeals in 2013. It also struck down the Department of Agriculture’s Administrative Order No. 8-2002, potentially throwing the Philippines’ GMO assessment and approvals system into unnecessary chaos.

The competence of the Court to adjudicate on matters of law is not in question. However, its judgment that the science on the question of Bt talong and GMOs in general is not settled appears highly skewed and very dependent on biased assessments submitted by Greenpeace and other groups with an overt antiscience agenda.

For the full story, visit the Inquirer website.

15 Comments

  1. Bluebell

    Biased assessments? Is that what you call it, when GE is rejected? I call it common sense and caution.

    Reply
    1. Clyde Davies

      “The ruling seems particularly bizarre given the shoddy evidence Greenpeace submitted in its original petition against Bt talong. Most of Greenpeace’s evidence was never published in scientific journals. Instead, it was commissioned and paid for by Greenpeace to serve its ideological battle against modern biotechnology.”

      I’d call your ‘common sense and caution’ tendentious and ideologically-driven garbage.

    2. Bluebell

      That reply could only come from Clyde Davis himself, can you really find something new to say, your replies are repetitive, and don’t offer anything constructive.

    3. Clyde Davies

      How much ‘common sense and caution’ will satisfy you? Nothing but a complete ban I expect.

      GMO foods are the most thoroughly tested food stuffs *ever*. And we’ve been eating them for over twenty years without a single proven case of harm.

      Unless of course you know different. C’mon, put up or shut up, ‘Bluebell’ (at least I don’t hide behind a nickname).

    4. Clyde Davies

      Oh, and by the way, something ‘constructive’ for you. This study, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/07388551.2013.823595 , details the last 10 years of GMO crop safety and is a review of 1783 other studies. It concludes ““The scientific research conducted so far has not detected *any significant hazards* directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops” (my emphasis).

      Now. obviously, you know better, Bluebell. So, I’d like you to tell me where the flaws and gaps are in the methodologies used. And what studies we should be doing, just in case. And how to mitigate those risks that you have identified (but haven’t told us about).

      But I expect I’ll have to wait until hell freezes over for that.

  2. Len Rosen

    Greenpeace gets some things right but on GMO its knee jerk response to the chemical industry, represented by Monsanto and others, is a detriment to the advancement of agriculture in pursuit of a sustainable future. The science of GMO does not produce “frankenfoods.” What it will do is ensure in the age of climate change that we will be far better able to mitigate and adapt to ensure we can feed the planet.

    Reply
    1. Bluebell

      Yes the likes of Monsanto will definately get on the Climate Change wagon, anything for the dollar and that’s about the sum total.

    2. Clyde Davies

      Organisation like Greenpeace only exist when they have something to oppose. If Monsanto didn’t exist, Greenpeace would have to invent them.

      I regard Greenpeace and its ilk as being an umbrella for all those intellectual deadweights that seem to think they have a right to dictate how fast the world develops. People with no real ideas of their own, who know what they don’t like and what they don’t want to see happen, rather than those who actually have some creative solutions.

    3. Scott

      Mitigate AGW? Are you serious? Please tell me what GMO was bred to sequester more carbon in the soil.

      Or are you just making stuff up? anything that sounds good?

    4. Chuck Niwrad

      Scott,

      Produce more food on less land, use less pesticide, and make fewer trips across the field in diesel-burning tractors. Just the first three demonstrated advantages of GMOs I can think of which serve to mitigate the effects of farming on AGW.

    5. Clyde Davies

      Um, Scott…how about no-till agriculture? Doesn’t that sequester carbon and preserve soil? Some GMOs do make this easier, indisputably.

    6. Scott

      No til with herbicide vs no til without herbicide, and which sequesters more carbon in the soil? hint, herbicide resistant GMOs will not win this comparison.

      A properly managed organic pasture based animal husbandry model vs a feedlot model where corn and soy are raised to feed animals in CAFOs, which sequesters more carbon? Hint, it doesn’t matter if the feed is no til with/without herbicides, nor if the feed is GMO, nor if the feed is organic raised or not, pasture has many many times more biomass and photosynthesis. The main part of the cycle that sequesters carbon starts with photosynthesis.What GMO sequesters more carbon than a pasture?

      In fact, what GMO trait has the slightest thing to do with carbon sequestration at all? The technology might produce one in the future, but I sure have not seen it now.

      When it comes to actually mitigating AGW, there is no better technology available than organic methods, owing to the fact “organic” is all about the carbon cycle, something conventional ag forgot about over 75 years ago. A mistake we are still living with, AGW being just one of many unintended emergent properties of a system that focuses on NPK rather than biological cycles.

    7. Clyde Davies

      “No til with herbicide vs no til without herbicide, and which sequesters more carbon in the soil? hint, herbicide resistant GMOs will not win this comparison.”

      I’m not talking about the perfect compared to the good. I’m talking about the good compared to the default for many farmers, which is conventional, NPK based agriculture wilth tilling. This is an interesting article: http://grist.org/food/soil-proprietor-do-gmos-promote-dirt-conservation/

      What is beyond doubt is that a lot of farmers who do no-till or conservation tillage wouldn’t do it were it not for herbicide tolerant crops. And, just as a matter of interest, how *does* one control weeds in no-herbicide no-till systems? Hand pulling?

    8. Scott

      Clyde,
      You asked, “And, just as a matter of interest, how *does* one control weeds in no-herbicide no-till systems? Hand pulling?”

      That really depends on the crop.

      For example the easiest and most common way is to eliminate the entire crop to grain to feedlot chain and simply raise the animals on pasture or forest edge habitat. With few exceptions, there is little to no weeding required, and if a few do pop up, the animals will eat them. This also goes for things like vineyards orchards etc… where instead of herbicides or tillage, either mechanical mowing and/or animals can control weeds. Different species can be used too, depending on the local conditions and the crops. For example goats or pigs can be used for certain types of brushy weeds.

      Then probably the next most common way is mulch. Either black plastic mulch or hay/ramial wood chip mulch over a paper/cardboard weed barrier that decomposes in a season. These types of systems are particularly common in certain types of annual vegetable production.

      Another way growing in popularity is growing certain types of dense off season cover crops that either die off and winter kill, and/or can be terminated with a roller crimper and then the crop planted in the mat left behind, which also acts like a mulch. Direct seeded crops like corn, soy and cotton are grown this way typically. The cover crops crowd out the weeds while growing, and then make a protective mulch covering to dramatically reduce weed germination, and the crop itself gets a jump start and later crowds out weeds once it gets established. Done right, this can give the cash crop even better weed control than herbicides, without the side effects. But for a while sometimes occasional herbicides are used for a few years, until the soil recovers sufficiently. That’s the type system people like Gabe Brown uses, and he is down to one 1/2 strength herbicide use every three years. Some fields don’t even need that anymore.

      Next is a new system called pasture cropping. In that system the crop is planted right into the perennial pasture after it is mowed by either animals or a mower. Works great for fast growing small grains like wheat and barley. The trick here is to have a mix of perennial grasses that produce seed at a different season than the annual grain crop. This way the wheat can be harvested, and there will be green pasture understory left behind, which can then be graised. You get approx 60-70% of the wheat yields, but also several rotations of grazing before and after the crop rotation. The net is actually more total yields of food for people and a tremendous gain in soil carbon. Colin Seis developed this. Another dairy farmer Tom Trantham developed a similar system but with forage species instead of grains. He gets consistently higher milk yields than even the most intensive confinement dairy with all their high powered feed supplements. Much healthier cows too.

      I am even developing my own, which borrows from all of the above.

  3. Bluebell

    Thank you Scott, brilliantly said.

    Reply

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