Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC stops release of genetically modified rice and eggplant products

Jairo Bolledo

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SC stops release of genetically modified rice and eggplant products

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants.

Isagani Serrano / IRRI

The petitioners led by a farmers-scientists group want to declare all the biosafety permits of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant null and void

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court, through the issuance of writ of kalikasan, stopped the commercial release of genetically modified rice and eggplant products.

In a briefer released on Wednesday, April 9, the High Court’s Public Information Office said the SC’s en banc decided to issue the writ during its deliberations on Tuesday. The writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy used to invoke someone’s right to a balanced and healthy ecology.

The writ stemmed from the case GR No. 263565 or Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), et al. against the secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), et al. The SC has yet to upload a full copy of its decision.

The petitioners led by MASIPAG filed a petition for writ of of kalikasan and continuing mandamus (with a prayer for issuance of temporary environmental protection order) before the SC on October 12, 2022. The petition sought to:

  • Direct the DA to refrain from commercially propagating Golden Rice and issuing safety permits for Bt Eggplant’s (Bacillus thuringiensis) propagation
  • Order the DA to cease and desist from commercially propagating Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant “until such time that  proof of safety and compliance with legal requirements is shown”
  • Declare all the biosafety permits of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant null and void
  • And “perform independent risks and impact assessments, obtain the prior and informed consent of farmers and indigenous peoples, and implement liability mechanisms in case of damage, as required by law.”

In their motion, the petitioners said both Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant are genetically modified organisms (GMO). Britannica defines as GMO as “organism whose genome has been engineered in the laboratory in order to favor the expression of desired physiological traits or the generation of desired biological products.”

The groups claimed that Golden Rice, patented to transnational agrochemical corporation Syngenta, is a type of rice modified by inserting a gene from a maize and a bacterium found in soil. This modification allows the plant to biosynthesize beta-carotene in the edible parts of rice.

Meanwhile, the group also claimed that Bt Eggplant was designed to produce its own toxin that to avoid common pests that damage eggplants. In its latest decision, the High Court required the government agencies, which are respondents to the case to file a return within 10 days.

The named respondents are:

  • Secretary of DA
  • Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
  • Secretary of the Department of Health
  • Director of the Bureau of Plant Industry, under the DA
  • Director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute
  • University of the Philippines Los Baños

Almost 10 years ago, in 2013, the Court of Appeals upheld a court ruling, which found that Bt Eggplant’s field trials violated the people’s right to balanced and healthful ecology. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.