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February 11, 2016

 

Corn, soybean shortages feared for Philippines 

 

 

The Philippines is feared to face a shortage in soy beans and corn if the Supreme Court (SC) affirms its earlier ruling temporarily banning the importation of GM (genetically modified) crops.

 

The chairperson of the country's Department of Agriculture (DA) Biotech Advisory Team, Saturnina Halos, said the high court's decision last Dec. 8 invalidating the DA's rules for the importation and release into the environment of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology, which had been in force for the past 13 years, would both affect the supply of these crops and increase the prices of products derived from them.

 

The ban on importation GMOs (genetically modified organisms) would be in effect until new rules are promulgated "in accordance with law", according to the SC decision.

 

Several groups have appealed the SC ruling, but Halos told a press forum on Wednesday, Feb. 10, that if the high court decides against the motion for reconsideration, the country might have a hard time sourcing non-GM soybean and corn.

 

An importer said in December that non-GM soymeal that was priced higher by US$80-$100 per tonne.

 

Halos said the Philippines imports 98% of its soybean needs from countries that grow GM crops including Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the US.

 

Importers said the Philippines sources some 2.2 million tonnes of its annual soymeal needs from abroad.

 

'Too harsh'

 

Meanwhile, the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), an agency under the Department of Science and Technology has described the SC's nullification of the DA rules as "too harsh".

 

"It must be pointed out that this move, if not clarified, will have serious repercussions on the research and development activities especially in plant breeding, as well as the flow of the supply of food and feed, specifically those that are based on crops largely harvested from transgenic lines, like soybean and corn," NAST said in a statement last week.

 

It pointed out that the drafting of the 13-year-old rules embodied in an administrative order involved a process of extensive consultations with various stakeholders including farmer groups, scientists, the academe, NGOs, the livestock industry, feed millers, food processors, commodity importers, and the representatives of foreign exporters and trading partners.

 

New rules and regulation for the "research and development, handling and use, transboundary movement, release into the environment and management of plant and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology" would reportedly be issued on Feb. 16.

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