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Scientific debate, not mob attacks








(The Philippine Star) | September 23, 2013

We hope that the powerful European pressure group Greenpeace and its militant allies here will consider more peaceful, less destructive means to push their advocacies.

Noticeably, they have intensified their campaign in the Philippines against Filipino scientists and the testing of new plant varieties. Greenpeace has lately been going overboard beyond civility. In fact, they have flexed their muscles beyond what is legal here in our country.

Many were alarmed by two recent developments involving these groups. One was the recent attack on a trial farm which belongs to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PHILRICE), an affiliate agency of the Department of Agriculture. The trial farm, located somewhere in Camarines Sur, was planted with an experimental palay variety called Golden Rice.

According to news reports, a militant group raided the farm by knocking down fences, uprooted the plants and razed whatever stumps were left. That was literally a scorched-earth tactic. The raiders marked it as a place where genetically modified organisms (GMO) must be destroyed at all cost.

The other development was a resolution by the Department of Justice (DoJ) which rejected an appeal by Greenpeace for the dismissal of charges filed against some of its operatives in the country. Based on a report published at The STAR, several members of Greenpeace were charged with malicious mischief following an attack on another trial farm in similar fashion like that recently done to the Golden Rice trial farm.

The incident took place in February, 2011 at the experimental farm of University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna where a new variety of eggplant called BT Talong is being tested.

According to the DoJ resolution, it found no reason to dismiss the charges against the Greenpeace operatives which included two or three foreigners. The DoJ warned Greenpeace that “in the exercise of our rights and in the enjoyment of our privileges, we cannot injure the rights of others.”

Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, acting on behalf of DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, signed the resolution dismissing the petition for review of the charge of malicious mischief filed against Daniel Ocampo, Aileen Camille Dimatactac, and Benjean Tolosa.

The three were among the respondents in the criminal case filed by UPLB, represented by Dr. Lourdes Dichoso Taylo, in connection with the destruction of the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) talong (eggplant) experimental farm worth about P25 million. The UPLB is developing the Bt eggplant in partnership with various state universities and private national and international institutions.

The case of malicious mischief against them has been filed before the Municipal Trial Court-4th Judicial Region under the sala of Judge Regina Balmores-Laxa in Bay town where the UPLB research experiment area is located.

The charge was based on an information filed by the provincial prosecutor’s office which found probable cause against the respondents. The DOJ upheld the provincial prosecutor’s office of its resolution. The respondents allegedly uprooted the Bt eggplants and took pictures and videos of what they called a “decontamination action,” causing damage estimated at P25 million to the UPLB.  While the respondents’ stated purpose in staging the “decontamination action” is laudable, the DoJ said this did not justify their “deliberate and concerted action, which caused damage to property, particularly the Bt eggplants, of the UPLB.”

The public can only agree. We hope Greenpeace heeds the DoJ warning.

More recently, The STAR also reported that a band of suspected New People’s Army rebels raided a rubber plantation in Makilala Town, North Cotabato. They set up explosives on the roadside leading to the plantation and burned down the processing plant.

In the process, the raiders killed one plantation worker.

These raids on large plantations are not new. An earlier attack on another rubber plantation was reported last June, that time in Agusan del Sur.

The public has accepted that these periodic attacks on large plantations are part of the tactics used by rebel groups suspected of engaging in extortion activities.

It is lamentable that, in their bid to stop Filipino scientists from doing agriculture research, Greenpeace and its local militant allies should resort to the same raid-and-raze tactic employed by suspected extortionists.

We can only commiserate with our scientists. They do not deserve what is being inflicted on their scientific experiments by Greenpeace and its militant allies.

After all, PHILRICE and UPLB are mandated and respected institutions for scientific research. They are tasked to look for ways to ensure that we, Filipinos, don’t go hungry in the future. It is also their job to develop plant varieties that will lessen our dependence on imports, including those from Europe, home-base of Greenpeace.

When Greenpeace and its militant allies raid and raze these trial farms, they are setting back Philippine efforts at finding solutions to hunger. We can’t blame others who view these acts by Greenpeace as foreign intervention and, in some ways, both imperious and imperialistic.

One way is for Greenpeace and its militant allies to set up their own trial farms planted with the very same new plant varieties. There, they can show scientific proof to back up their claims that the new plant varieties are not suited for human consumption.

There, they can invite farmers to see their “proof.” That way, Filipino farmers can exercise their freedom and right to choose which variety they want to plant in their farms.

Greenpeace’s raid-and-raze tactic is meant to destroy positive scientific proof. In so doing, they do not just destroy government property. They also destroy farmers’ right and freedom to choose, and our collective right to determine what is best for us based on the results of scientific research.

These anti-GMO groups should just leave our scientists alone to do their job. If Greenpeace wants to demolish the research work of our scientists, they should do so through scientific debates and not through violent means.



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