PRESS RELEASE
Department of Agriculture RFU 5
San Agustin, Pili, Camarines Sur
August 10, 2013

 

Militant groups destroy Golden Rice trial, vandalized DA facilities

SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR --Over 300 members of militant groups stormed into the compound of Department of Agriculture regional office here and uprooted and trampled and vandalized the Golden rice which were already in their booting stage planted in an experimental lot here. The police and barangay tanod of about 25 who were securing the site were outnumbered and caught by surprise when the agitated rallyists forcibly opened the gate and climbed over the fence. In just 15 minutes the rallyists ravaged the ricefield.

DA Bicol regional executive director Eng. Abelardo R. Bragas and the members of the research and technical team strongly condemned the violent and mischievous assault of the rallyists which resulted to damage of government properties, loss of valuable data and research investment. He said the agency may take legal action against the perpetrators.

Golden Rice is a new type of rice which contains beta carotene, a source of vitamin A. Leading nutrition and agricultural research organizations are working together to evaluate Golden Rice as a potential new way to reduce Vitamin A deficiency. Part of this evaluation is the conduct of multi-location field trails to ensure that Golden rice is effective and safe, and can be planted, grown and harvested just like other popular rice varieties.

The field trials were duly permitted by the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), the national regulatory authority in the Philippines for biotechnology research and development, after establishing that the trials will pose no significant risks to human health and environment.

Series of meeting and dialogues with local leaders and community representatives were conducted prior to the conduct of the trials. Implementation of the trials was being closely monitored by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) composed of researchers and experts from the DA, CBSUA, barangay captain, municipal council and religious group.

At the time of the incident, DA RFO 5 officials and members of the research and technical team of the Golden Rice Project were gathered at the DA main building awaiting the arrival of the rallyists, ready to have dialogue with them. The team had been alerted that a rally will be held that day and as in the previous rallies before, leaders of the protesting groups are invited for a dialogue.

The surprise attack was staged by the group led by Wilfredo Marbella, deputy secretary of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bert Auter, secretary general of KMP Bicol. Also identified were members of Anakpawis Partylist and MASIPAG.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala in a television interview asked those opposing the trial to let the trials be completed first.


Meanwhile, IRRI through its deputy director general for Communications and Partnerships Bruce Tolentino personally came to Bicol to assess the situation. He said that trials will continue. He calls on Filipinos to rally against malnutrition. (Emily Bordado)

 

The vandalized golden rice field site showing uprooted and trampled plants.

 

Dir. Bruce Tolentino (in polo) explains to the media that despite what happened , Golden Rice research will continue as it is the commitment of their institution and the other partner agencies, to fight malnutrition. With him were Dr. Tony Alfonso, project director of Golden Rice and concurrently national coordinator of Biotechnology Program of the DA and DA Bicol regional executive Director. Eng. Abelardo R. Bragas. (DA RAFID