Militants wreck GM rice test farm

By Cet Dematera, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 10 2013 01:46 AM | Updated as of Aug 10 2013 09:46 AM

LEGAZPI CITY , Philippines – Over 400 members of different militant groups swooped down on an experimental farm of a genetically modified (GM) rice variety called "Golden Rice" in Pili, Camarines Sur last Thursday.

Agriculture officials decried the raid on the test farm, saying the militants merely “overreacted” based on “wrong information.”

The militants pretended to have come for a dialogue with officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) at the regional office in Pili town Thursday morning, but instead crushed through the perimeter mesh wire fence, and then uprooted the Golden Rice plants being grown at the half-hectare farm.

Engineer Abelardo Bragas, DA-Bicol director, said what the militants, belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and other progressive groups, did was premature and irresponsible.

“These people merely overreacted as their claims are based on wrong information about this genetically modified palay variety called Golden Rice. While we are now growing this palay inside our experimental station, we are not yet planting it for mass or commercial production,” Bragas told The STAR.

Bragas said the Golden Rice variety is not yet distributed to farmers for planting, as it has to pass a series of tests and approval from different concerned government agencies whether it is fit for human consumption or not.
He also belied reports that the experiment is being funded by a private company that would supposedly benefit once the Golden Rice variety is commercially planted, as it would allegedly supply the fertilizers and pesticides needed to grow it abundantly.

Bragas said the experiment is funded by the government and is being carried out with experts from the state-run Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute.

“Actually we have chosen Bicol to be the pilot area on the adaptability of this variety because records show that more children here are suffering from vitamin A deficiency,” Bragas said, adding that Golden Rice is a genetically modified combination of yellow corn and rice that is rich in vitamin A.