Prof. Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II, Assistant Professor at the UP College of Law, giving a legal assessment of the Bt Talong Case.
As a continued effort in ensuring public awareness and understanding of issues pertaining to modern biotechnology and biosafety regulations of Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs), the Department of Science and Technology Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) staff attended a Forum on GM Crops: Public Perception and Trade Regulation Practices last June 28, 2016, spearheaded by the Institute of International Studies, University of the Philippines Law Center at Diliman, Quezon City.
This is in relation with the Supreme Court decision issued last December 8, 2015, nullifying the DA A.O. No. 8, which put a halt to all applications on GMOs until a new regulation has been put in place in accordance with the country’s National Biosafety Framework. While activities involving GM products may be strictly regulated or restricted domestically, the Philippines is a signatory to international trade agreements that bind us to import crops—genetically modified or not. Thus, it may be assumed that while a country can be extremely cautious on the use of GM products, it remains vulnerable to the entry of these same products through international trade. To recognize the issue at hand, the speakers invited gave a background of the GM industry in the Philippines, alongside with the existing governing laws and government policies dealing with GM products.
The Forum focused on the trade issues on the importation of GM products and the Philippines practice on labeling and other regulations of the importation of these products. The Joint Department Circular (JDC), issued on April 15, 2016 covers the rules and procedures for the research and development, handling and use, transboundary movement, release into the environment, and management of genetically-modified plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology was also given light.
While there is still a debate about the nullification of A.O. 8 in the SC, the talk was able to encapsulate the importance of translation of scientific data for sounder legal review of GM policies. It was also emphasized that the scientific community must challenge the SC regarding the precautionary principle by showing scientific data that back the non-harmful effects of GMOs to consumers and how it has been beneficial to the farmers in particular and the country’s agricultural economy in general during the last 20 years.