The December 2015 decision of the Supreme Court on what is referred to as the Bt Talong case (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, Inc. vs. Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Philippines) et al., 8 December 2015, GR 209271, GR 209276, GR 209301, GR 209430) was the subject of a whole-day forum organized by the Institute of International Legal Studies (IILS) of the UP Law Center, on 28 June 2016.
Invited to throw light on the subject of GM Crops: Public Perception and Trade Regulation Practices were speakers from the fields of: biotechnology, agro-economics, and the Food and Drug Administration with Professor Carlo Vistan, Head of IILS, explaining the Bt talong decision. Dr. Benigno Pecson Senior Advisor of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines, gave an introductory talk on what are genetically modified crops; and concluded with the statement that as far as scientists are concerned, GM crops are safe. On the other hand, Attorney Vistan, himself a graduate of microbiology, sought to clarify that the SC decision did not totally ban the use of GM crops.
Dr. Ramon Clarete, former Dean of the School of Economics, and Dr. Leonardo Gonzales member of the DOST Biosafety Committee and President of STRIVE Foundation, discussed the “risk assessment” vs “precautionary” principles and how these affect trade in the importation of GM crops; and the socio-economic impact of the successful Bt corn experience in the Philippines, respectively. Ms Maria Theresa Cerbolles of the Food and drug Administration explained the Philippine practice of labeling of imported GM products and other information required or allowed under WTO regulations.
Participants of the open forum engaged the speakers in a spirited exchange where the dominant sentiment was one of frustration with the legal institutions of the country. The Forum was attended by representatives of the science and agro-industrial communities, with a contingent coming all the way from UP Los Baños.