The top biotechnology expert of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has reassured consumers that all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) approved for commercial release, whether for food, feed or processing, are safe and pose no health risks to consumers.
Dr. Saturnina Halos, chief of the DA-Biotech Advisory Team (DA-BAT), said GMOs have been proven scientifically to pose no danger to the environment, contrary to fears raised by environmentalists.
According to Halos, none of the 44 GMO products approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) since December 2002 has caused any ailment among the farmers who planted them and the people who consumed them.
The first GMO to be approved for commercial release in the Philippines in December 2002 was the pest-resistant Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn, which is now cultivated all over the country.
Halos explained that all GMOs were subjected to the most rigorous science-based safety assessment by competent authorities.
In addition, the Scientific Technical Review Panel (STRP), an independent scientific body, also evaluated the GMO applications.
Halos said all GMO applications pass through several layers of assessments by independent scientists, all of whom are accorded the time to check on the organisms, report their findings and subject the GMOs to repeated tests for toxicity and impact on indigenous plants and animals.
She pointed out that the safety protocol followed by the Philippines is similar to the system followed by the European Union (EU), which has the strictest scientific regulations as far as GMOs are concerned.
The process of approval also calls for public consultations – from the initial evaluation of the technology to the testing in greenhouses, then in individual field tests and then to testing in multiple sites, Halos continued.
Thus, farmers, consumers, medical practitioners and critics are accorded the opportunity to check on the GMOs.
“It is a very tedious process. The BPI also conducts consultation meetings with various stakeholders and conducts a careful evaluation of the issues and concerns raised during the consultation process,” Halos said. –Marianne V. Go, Philippine Star