The Philippines Supreme Court Issues a Writ to Stop Commercial Propagation of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant

A petition for a Writ of Kalikasan¹ to stop the commercial propagation of genetically modified rice and eggplant, specifically Golden Rice and Bt eggplant, was successfully granted by the Supreme Court of the Philippines on 18 April 2023.

The petition was filed on 17 October 2022 by MASIPAG (a farmer-led network), et al² against the respondents who are various government agencies and organisations³ for having previously approved a biosafety permit despite non-compliance with the laws and norms governing it. This was done without considering the uncertainties associated with these GMOs, which could cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem.

Read our position paper on GMOs

We welcome this move by the Supreme Court in issuing the Writ of Kalikasan on Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant and its recognition that these genetically modified crops pose a grave danger to our environment and health.

Alfie Pulumbarit
MASIPAG National Coordinator

He also stressed that this is a victory for organic farmers since for years, farmers and scientists have been pointing out the irreversible damage and risks to the environment, risk to biodiversity of rice and eggplant through gene contamination, and human health that come with the propagation of GM Golden Rice and Bt eggplant. Genetic modification of crops directly violates the core principles of organic agriculture which are being upheld by organic farmers.

Rowena Buena, Regional Coordinator of MASIPAG Luzon, added that in organic farming, all living creatures in the ecological food web of life - the microbes, insects including butterflies, and the entire biodiversity - can be adversely affected by this kind of technology along with the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This affects pollination, soil carbon, and closing of these ecological cycles, which may ultimately lead to unsustainable, toxic food systems that affect our health and environments, as well as the income of organic producers due to contamination.

For more information, visit MASIPAG’s website here!

  • A temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) be issued, directing respondents to refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and issuing a biosafety permit for commercial propagation of Bt Eggplant;
  • The respondents stop commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant until evidence of their safety and conformity with the law is presented;
  • All biosafety permits for Bt eggplant and golden rice be deemed invalid
  • The respondents be instructed, in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations, to carry out independent risk and impact assessments, secure the informed consent of farmers and indigenous people, and set up a liability system in the event of damages.

The respondents failed to prove to the Supreme Court how Bt Eggplant "does not pose greater risks to biodiversity, human, and animal health than its conventional counterpart". Furthermore, there was no proof that evaluations and public participation were conducted through their respective Biosafety Committees.

The ruling of the Supreme Court will stand until the respondents can show that safety and legal criteria are being followed.

¹A writ of kalikasan is a type of judicial action intended to uphold someone's constitutional right to a safe and healthy environment.

²The petitioners were MASIPAG, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines (GREENPEACE), Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives For Community Empowerment (SEARICE), Kilusang Magbubukid Ng Pilipinas (KMP), Climate Change Network For Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI), Salinlahi Alliance For Children’s Concerns (SALINLAHI), Inc., Orlando Mercado, Teodoro Mendoza, Liza Maza, Reginald Vallejos, Mae Paner, Virginia Nazareno, Jocelyn Jamandron, and Lauro Diego,Masipag.

³The respondents were the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Health (DOH), the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB).