Livestock industry expansion ‘on-hold’ in Negros

Published by rudy Date posted on July 6, 2009

Businessmen urge council to hasten review of Ordinance 007 that prohibits genetically modified organisms.

BACOLOD CITY: Plans of expansion  in both the swine and poultry industry in Negros Occidental has been deferred pending a thorough review of the anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) law that the province of Negros Occidental has recently implemented.

In a press conference over the weekend, livestock industry leaders urged the provincial council to hasten their review of Ordinance 007 that prohibits the entry of both living and non-living genetically modified organisms in the province, with the hope that it will be to their advantage.

Albert Lim, president of the National Hog Raisers Association as well as the head of the Negros Hog Raisers Association criticized the provincial government’s recent implementation of the law as “contrary to the national government’s policy on using biotechnology to improve productivity and make our industry competitive in both the local and global market.”

The livestock industry has earlier complained that the law will cause their industry to “collapse” after the provincial government stopped and turned away the entry of an estimated P1 million worth of genetically modified corn used for feeds.

Lim said what is more worrisome is the “negative signal” the law is sending to investors. He said there have been plans for two feed producers to expand in Negros and produce feeds for the growing industry “which could have spelt livelihood for our people but is now on-hold because of the ban.”

The ban also required industry players now to buy mixed feeds in neighboring provinces, which is P2 higher per kilo than before. With the industry’s need at 900,000 kilos per day, Lim said this amounts to P1.8 million additional costs for hog and poultry raisers. With the ban in effect, some breeders have reportedly shifted to wheat which is ironically also GMO but which does not provide “enough protein” than GMO corn.

Former Rep. Manuel Puey of Negros who is the president of the Negros Occidental Poultry Raisers Association said the longer the provincial government does not make a decision on the matter, “there is a probability that investors will simply relocate to other provinces.”

Puey said the province’s poultry industry has grown so big that it produces about a million broilers a month. Like the hog industry, Negros has become an exporter for livestock with Cebu province getting a good share of its Negros pork.

Puey who is also an egg producer said that if they will be forced to close shop, “we will have no choice but to get eggs from neighboring Bantayan Island,” which also uses GMO feeds for their chicken. “Because of this law, we will still be buying GMO-fed products from other sources.”

Rey de la Rama, president of the Alliance of Hog Raisers in Negros Occidental representing commercial producers also said they are under “so much pressure because this is our livelihood. How much more for the backyard raisers,” he asked.

Ironically, a provincial government program for livestock propagation also includes giving out GMO feeds for their beneficiaries and has pushed for the expansion of the industry to get away from the image of Negros Occidental as a monocrop industry.

Meanwhile, the sugar industry has added its voice to those opposing the law after the Philippine Sugar Research Institute came out with a statement urging the review of the law in the light that their research to improve sugar cane varieties also involves experimenting with both living and non-living genetically modified organisms. –Ma. Ester L. Espina, Correspondent, Manila Times

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