Battle vs. Bt Talong won at the appellate court level
Manila, Philippines, 29 September 2013 –After one year and five months of legal battle on the Writ of Kalikasan against Bt Talong field trials, the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed its earlier decision that uphold the right of Filipinos to a healthy and balanced ecology.
The 14-page CA resolution, dated 20 September 2013, vindicated the petitioners Greenpeace and Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pagpapaunlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) along with 15 other individuals including former Sen. Orly Mercado and Rep. Teddy Casino when they won the last legal battle on the Writ of Kalikasan on Bt Talong in the appellate level. CA upholds its decision and affirmed the arguments raised by the petitioners.
The case filed in April 2012 has undergone a series of debates which presented scientists and experts from both sides. In May 2013, the CA has earlier issued its decision ordering the respondents lead by University of the Philippines Los Banos Foundation (UPLBFI), University of the Philippines, Los Banos (UPLB), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to “permanently cease and desist from further conducting BT Talong field trials” and “protect, preserve, rehabilitate and restore the environment”.
Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director commented, "the ruling strongly validates our position regarding the hazards of open releases of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) such as Bt eggplant into the environment.” He stressed that the decision also vindicates Greenpeace against the malicious, aggressive and sustained attacks currently being waged by GMO pushers and their propagandists against the environmental group.
Calling on the government, Hernandez said, “this decision should enlighten our government not to waste public money in co-funding research on GM crops, which is not only harmful but would only benefit the corporate patent owners of the gene and technology. It must not also allow foreign biotechnology firms to dominate state university research; instead, support Filipino researchers in their work for safe, ecological and organic agriculture.”
The respondents have filed their motion for reconsideration in which the CA has denied and affirmed its earlier decision. Highlights of the Court of Appeals Resolution are:
1. University respondent, UPLB, could not find solace in the Constitutional provision on academic freedom. Like any other right, says CA, the right to academic freedom ends when the overriding public welfare calls for some restraint. It does not give UPLB unbridled freedom to conduct experimentation, studies & research that may put to risk the health of the people and the environment which are equally protected under our fundamental law. The court ordered to stop the field trial, not the research on Bt talong, and considered science creative enough to continue the research without releasing it to the environment.
2. The testing or introduction of Bt talong in the Philippines, by its nature and intent, is a grave and present danger to a balanced ecology because in any book and by any yardstick, it is an ecologically imbalancing event. Court emphasised the "chronic harm" (harm built up over time) that Bt talong might cause and the fact that it heard all the experts' testimonies which failed to settle the scientific uncertainties. It cited the study of Prof. Seralini "Food and Chemical Toxicology" September 20, 2012 which was undisputed when presented by the justices themselves in the hearing of experts. Hence, the proper application of the precautionary principle.
3. Court did not find any compelling reason in the 3 Motions for Reconsideration and 2 Replies by respondents to reverse or modify the Court's May 17, 2013 decision. Note that the May 17, 2013 decision granted the writs of kalikasan and continuing mandamus on the grounds:
a) there is no scientific consensus on the safety and impacts of Bt talong;
b) there is no Congressional enactment that governs introduction, release, experimentation of GM crops liks Bt talong;
c) precautionary principle is applicable in the light of uncertainties and inadequacy/ineffectiveness or current regulatory system; and,
d) Bt talong, with its social, economic and environmental impacts, should not be entrusted to scientists only but should also involve all stakeholders.
Atty. Zelda Soriano, Political Advisor, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and lead counsel for the Writ of Kalikasan, emphasized the need for the respondents DENR and DA to prepare an immediate plan of action to rehabilitate the field trial sites and protect, preserve and conserve the environment as ordered by the court.
Soriano said, “it is also within the mandate of the departments of environment, agriculture and health to recommend policies and measures to reform the present regulatory process found by the court as incapable, ineffective, and inadequate to protect the constitutional rights of the Filipinos to health and balanced ecology. All of these, however, must be done in consultation and collaboration with stakeholders.