A group of farmers has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse a Court of Appeals (CA) decision that stopped field trial of the genetically modified (GM) eggplant as their livelihood may be adversely affected by the decision.
The CA effectively ordered to stop the commercial development of the GM Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant through its issuance in May 2013 of a Writ of Kalikasan with a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO)
The 57-page “petition for review in intervention” with the SC stated the CA is putting to death “technology and innovation” in farming.
It was feared by Greenpeace, which asked for the Writ of Kalikasan, that the Bt eggplant’s field trials may contaminate the environment.
But Bt technology even enhances environmental sustainability.
“The Bt technology is more likely to bring about improvements in the environment by reducing the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity and alleviating the pressure to convert our rainforests and natural habitats into farmlands, the farmers said in their petition.
The farmers cited that a 2013 study showed that the GM technology had resulted in a $98.2 billion economic benefit over the period 1996 to 2011. It also cut pesticide spraying by 474 million kilos.
Reduction in spraying resulted in a reduction of associated environmental footprint by 18.1 percent.
“The technology has also significantly reduced the release of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which is equivalent to removing 23 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 10.2 million cars from the roads for one.”
The petitioners are eleven farmers of which two were from Impasug ong, Bukidnon, and nine from Pangasinan.
Most of them experienced first-hand the benefits of Bt technology.
They experienced spraying of less pesticide particularly from the use of a similar technology in Bt corn.
They know Bt eggplant will result in a similar less spraying in battling the pest fruit and shoot borer (FSB).
The CA came up with the Kalikasan and TEPO decision even if did not at all find “any particular violation of any environmental law on the part of the Petitioners.”
“Much less did it explain the particular environmental harm that is caused by, or may be due to, the Bt talong field trials.”
The environment will actually have less pesticide “loading.” There will be less health hazard in pesticide residue in eggplant for consumers.
Farmers will have less exposure to harmful pesticide from less spraying.
The CA decision merely made “references to the Divine Plan.” The decision believed the Bt technology “alters” nature.
But CA failed to show any evidence that the GM eggplant will have “irreversible” and “irreparable” damage to the environment which are the essence of a Writ of Kalikasan order.
The farmers asserted the CA decision has “grave” implications and is a “patent violation” of their right to property. Their right to the protection of their livelihood is guaranteed by the Constitution.
The planting of the FSB-resistant eggplant should even be encouraged.
The farmers cited a budget study that showed Bt eggplant can increase cash returns to farmers by almost P117,000, 21 percent, per hectare.
“These increases in profitability will be due to increase in marketable surplus resulting from minimal or zero eggplant FSB damage and overall lower cost of production. The biggest cash cost saving is expected to come from savings in pesticide expense.”
FACTS IN THE 57-PAGE PETITION-IN-INTERVENTION
These are petitioner-farmers: Edgar C. Talasan, Eugene O. Halasan, David L. Casimero, George N. Matias, Laureano . Sanchez, Maximino N. Apelado, Danilo P. Doronio, Roberto L. Apelado, Marvin D. Matias, Emily S. Bitco, and Asuncion A. Desamito.
QUOTES FROM THE 57-PAGE PETITION-IN-INTERVENTION
“The Assailed CA resolution dismisses the tremendous potential of Bt technology in improving crop productivity– higher crop yields and lower cost of inputs, which translate to higher profits, Bt technology will address the need for an ever-larger food supply for human consumption.”
“It would be grossly prejudicial to PETITIONER FARMERS who rely on their income from eggplant farming to support their families, as well as all market participants of eggplant production, to be unjustifiably precluded from enjoying the potential benefits of Bt eggplant.”
“Social justice demands that those who are found at the periphery of society are given every opportunity, in law and in fact, to advance the quality of their lives.”
“. It commands giving voice to those who are most affected by the consequences of legal disputes concerning complex legal issues that occur within the halls of the judiciary, and an acknowledgement that behind every case exist real people who, although unlettered in the ways of the law, are impacted by the decisions of the courts.”
“There is no better way to uphold the vision of social justice so centrally enshrined in our Constitution than to encourage science and technology — an oftentimes technocratic and inaccessible affair — to benefit the marginalized whose very lives depend on its fruits and effects.”
THE ASSAILED CA DECISION AND ASSAILED CA RESOLUTION ARE AN AFFRONT TO SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS AND A THREAT TO THE STATUS OF THE PHILIPPINES AS AN EMERGING MARKET IN THE FIELD OF BIOTECHNOLOGY.
“Section 10. Science and technology are essential for national development and progress. The State shall give priority to research and development, invention, innovation, and their utilization; and to science and technology education, training, and services.
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RESOLVING TO GRANT RESPONDENTS’ PETITION FOR WRIT OF KALIKASAN WHEN IT UNJUDICIOUSLY DELVED INTO THE WISDOM AND SUFFICIENCY OF THE LAW, PARTICULARLY THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR FIELD TESTING OF GENETICALLY-MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs) IN THE PHILIPPINES.
4.1. the Honorable Court of Appeals to engage in “judicial legislation” and true enough, were even successful at it.
At the outset, it bears noting that the testing of GMOs is regulated by Philippine law, contrary to the declaration of the Honorable Court of Appeals that “there is yet no law in the form of a Congressional enactment for ensuring [Bt talong’s] safety and levels of acceptable risks when introduced into the free environment.” These are (i) DA AO No. 08-2002 issued by the DA which institutionalized the existing operational arrangements between Petitioner BPI and the NCBP, and provided regulations governing the release of modern biotechnology products for propagation or for direct use as food or feed, or for processing, and (ii) Executive Order No. 514 (“EO 514”).