Poultry and livestock growers yesterday called for a moratorium on the ban on GMO products in Negros Occidental, while the president of the second largest poultry integrator in Negros Occidental said they may take legal action against the provincial government as a last resort.
The growers and feed dealers aired their opposition to the ban at a dialog with provincial government officials at the Capitol in Bacolod City.
Earlier, Gov. Isidro Zayco ordered the shipping out of Negros Occidental of genetically modified corn intercepted by provincial government teams.
Provincial Ordinance 007, Series of 2007, institutes stringent measures towards the protection of biodiversity and the attainment of the status of Negros as an organic food island by banning the entry, planting, growing and selling of genetically modified plants and animals within Negros Occidental.
The stakeholders at yesterday’s dialog insisted that GMO corn is a vital component to the feed needs of the poultry and livestock in Negros Occidental.
Provincial Agriculturist Igmedio Tabianan informed the stakeholders that there is available GMO-free corn that they can bring into the province to meet their needs.
But Henry Perez, one of the GMO ban oppositors at the dialog, said Tabianan’s assurances were all talk.
Albert Lim, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, called for a moratorium on the GMO ban while alternative sources for feed inputs are being discussed.
Otherwise, our poultry and livestock will run out of feeds, the continued imposition of the ban would be disastrous, he said.
The ordinance was passed in 2007 and enforced just after Holy Week this year but the provincial agriculturist in the period in between has not ensured that an adequate amount of GMO-free corn was planted in Negros Occidental to meet our needs, Lim said.
“The provincial agriculturist was negligent in his duty,” Lim charged.
Lim also said they were not informed of the hearings prior to the passage of the ordinance on the GMO ban.
Ronald Mascariñas, president of Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. that is the second largest poultry integrator in Negros Occidental, said his firm is losing P500,000 a week following the closure of their feedmill plant in Bacolod City due to lack of corn.
Provincial government teams intercepted on March 28 and April 16 genetically modified corn shipped to Bounty and ordered that it be sent of out Negros Occidental.
Mascariñas charged that the provincial government is the biggest violator of the GMO ban for being very selective in its enforcement.
They are zeroing in on corn when almost all of the products sold at grocery stores have genetically modified substances, he said.
If the provincial government continues to abuse and treat us unfairly we will be pushed to the wall, and as a last resort may take legal action, he said.
“We have been the victim of this unfair and discriminatory enforcement of the ordinance, resulting into actual and moral damages to our company, including unwarranted negative publicity, for which we are entitled to redress,” Mascariñas, in a position paper submitted to the provincial government yesterday, said.
He said they were disappointed at being treated so unfairly despite their considerable contribution to the economic welfare of the province and its constituents.
Mascariñas called on the provincial government to repeal Provincial Ordinance 007 or at the very least impose a moratorium.
He said the implementing rules and regulations for Provincial Ordinance 007 have not been properly and validly enacted so the hold orders on two of their shipments were not valid.
“The manner of the interception, inspection, and testing and hold order of our shipments was done in an arbitrary and confiscatory manner. The conduct of the tests and purported test results of the corn shipments violate established testing standards, and was an invasion of privacy and violates our right to due process,” he added.
The ordinance is also severely flawed because it fails to account for the fact that Negros Occidental is not self-sufficient in food supply, he said.
There is no scientifically proven health risk to humans from genetically modified yellow corn, and to poultry fed with it, he added.
The ordinance is an unlawful exercise of police power in that it curtails the citizens’ exercise of free choice, Mascariñas also said.
Japhet Masculino, head of the Provincial Economic Enterprise Development Department who moderated the dialog, said the participants were asked to submit position papers that along with the proceedings of yesterday’s dialog will be taken into consideration by the province’s policy makers.
Amendments to an ordinance can be made if there are compelling reasons to do so, he said.
If the stakeholders can present compelling reasons the provincial government will be willing to amend the ordinance in question, he added.*CPG