Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos today urged the Department of Agriculture to ready a rescue plan for nearly half a million farmers and other related industries that will be adversely affected by the recent Supreme Court decision scrapping the field testing of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant.
Marcos said the DA must roll out a comprehensive program to help affected farmers which should include providing them with “alternative crops, free seeds, affordable loan packages, and extensive support by technical experts to enable them to make the switch as early as possible.”
“The SC ruling on Bt talong further aggravates the condition of the country’s already sagging agriculture sector, but we must abide by it. While we can expect efforts to seek its reversal, the long and the short of is that many farmers are going to suffer and the DA must help them immediately,” said Marcos.
The SC ruling on eggplant genetically-engineered to resist pests also struck down DA’s Administrative Order No. 8, series of 2002 that spelled out the government’s policy on biosafety and genetically-modified organisms (GMO).
It likewise stopped applications for field testing, contained use, propagation and importation of genetically modified organisms, pending the promulgation of a new administrative order.
Agri-science students had warned that the decision will also affect the some 415,000 farmers in the country’s P90-billion corn industry, involved in the production of Bt corn planted in at least 831,000 hectares of farms.
They also warned that livestock and poultry industry will also suffer a hit as they rely mostly on imported feeds normally containing GMOs such as corn and soybeans.
Likewise the ruling will impact on farmers involved in the production of 75 biotech crops and products currently approved for direct use as food, feed and for processing in the Philippines that include alfalfa, canola, cotton, potato, rice, soybean, and sugar beet.
In his home province of Ilocos Norte which depends heavily on agriculture, Marcos said he had been swamped with concerns about the SC ruling. “We are worried over this development which is why until the SC ruling is reversed, the DA should be laying out an alternative program to reverse its adverse effects on our farmers and food security,” he said.
Marcos has been advocating for increased government support to the agriculture sector where 70 percent of the country’s poor belong.
To help our farmers, Marcos said the government must pursue business-driven infrastructure programs to improve road networks and transportation system, ensure a reliable and cheaper supply of electricity, and upgrade the country’s irrigation systems.