Science in Society Archive

I-SIS Comment in Support of Ban on GMOs in Negros

Hon. Isidro P. Zayco
The Governor's Office
Negros Occidental Province
Through Armigenia Benedicto

16 July 2009


Dear Hon. Isidro Zayco,

On behalf of the Institute of Science in Society, I would like to submit our Comment to you on the Philippine Sugar Research Institute Foundation's objection to the implementation of Provincial Ordinance 007 in Negros Occidental Province.

The Institute of Science in Society (I-SIS) is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1999 to provide reliable and accessible scientific information to the public and to promote social accountability and sustainability in science. But our leading scientists have been involved in monitoring the development of GMOs for at least the past 15 years. The authors of the report Prof. Joe Cummins and I, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho are established senior scientists who have taught and researched genetics and other relevant areas for at least 40 years before retirement. I am also a scientific advisor to the Third World Network, and a member on the Roster of Experts of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which entered into force in September 2003.

We thank you for your courageous and wise actions to support and promote organic agriculture in your province since 2005. Science and all truly independent scientists are fully behind you. Please do not hesitate to call on us if there is anything else you need. Meanwhile we shall do all we can to make sure that the world's policy-makers follow the shining example you have set.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Director, Institute of Science in Society
39-41, North Road,
London N7 9DP

Comment on the Philippine Sugar Research Institute Foundation Objection

Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS)

The Philippine Sugar Research Institute Foundation (PHILSURIN) expressed opposition to the implementation of Provincial Ordinance 007 Republic of the Philippines, Province of Negros Occidental, which describes the ban on introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The crux of the PHILSURIN opposition was their concern about the use of certain diagnostic tools that were produced using genetic engineering but did not directly modify the sugar cane plants. Nevertheless , PHILSURIN expressed their intention to import genetically modified sugar cane varieties for breeding purposes in the future , and will be working towards that eventuality using many varieties of GMOs (1).

First, PHILSURIN will be looking for molecular markers of desirable traits such as disease resistances. The probes used in identifying molecular markers are produced in GM microbes. Such probes are not alive, and will not alter the sugar cane but they would violate section 7 of Ordinance 007 once Section 7 is implemented; as Section 7 bans all GM products, not just living GMOs .

Second, PHILSURIN will use a serological technique called Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA) to detect viruses and bacteria pathogens rapidly with high specificity. The technology involves making monoclonal antibodies specific for a particular pathogen then linking the antibody with an enzyme that activates a molecule to produce a colour proportional to the number of the specific pathogen in a sample from a sugar cane plant. The ELISA technology has been used to identify sugar cane Ratoon Stunting Disease caused by a bacterium with antibodies selected from a mammalian system. Another sugar cane disease caused by a virus is Yellow Leaf Syndrome. The virus detection by ELISA involves genetic modification of the reagents used to detect the virus. First the viral coat protein gene is cloned in a bacterium to produce quantities of the coat protein. The coat protein is used to screen a bacteriophage (phagmid) combinatorial library made up an array of combinations of single chain human antibodies. The DNA from colonies producing single chain antibodies to the viral coat protein is used to transform bacteria, which then produce the single chain antibody employed in the ELISA test [2]). PHILSURIN expressed concern that the technology will violate section 7 of Ordinance 007 once that section is implemented, and they are right.

As PHILSURIN finally revealed, their prime concern is that there would soon be genetically modified varieties of sugar cane, modified for disease resistance or higher sugar or alcohol yield. The Ordinance will certainly prohibit import of GM varieties for use as parent material for the breeding improvement programs .

The Province of Negros Occidental made a wise and rational decision to restrict agriculture to organic production, in which genetic modification has no place. This is a consensus developing among independent scientists, as more and more evidence has accumulated on the health and environmental risks of GMOs [3] ( GM is Dangerous and Futile , SiS 40) as well as their agronomic unsustainability (see [4, 5] GM is Not the Way to Sustainability , SiS 40, Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free , ISIS publication; also the newly published International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development [6]). It is clear that PHILSURIN's intention is to introduce GM sugarcane and GMOs against the wishes of the people and its own long-term interest, as well as the most informed independent scientific advice based on a comprehensive body of evidence, which ISIS has amassed in the course of 15 years or more of monitoring the development of GMOs [7] ( GM Science Exposed , ISIS CD book).

Instead PHILSURIN should take full advantage of organic production, and contribute to it using marker-assisted conventional breeding, and development of diagnostic tests for diseases with molecular markers or ELISA techniques that are strictly confined and contained in the laboratory. It should also undertake never to patent any gene sequences or constructs or to prevent farmers themselves from carrying out their own breeding, saving and exchanging seeds, using their own and other varieties, or to restrict their traditional rights in any way.

Article first published 16/07/09


  1. Dr. Ramon Cu, The Philippine Sugar Research Institute Foundation Letter to Hon. Isidro Zayco Provincial Governor Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Republic of the Philippines June 15,2009
  2. Cu R, Manjunath K, PetersenY, Hebert E, Davis N. Development of Diagnostic Probe to Detect ScYLV of Sugercane Using Phage Display Technology Philsurin Annual Report 2002-03 pp1-6,
  3. Ho MW. GM is dangerous and futile. Science in Society 40 , 4-8, 2008.
  4. Saunders PT. GM is not the way to sustainability. Science in Society 40 , 9-1, 2008
  5. Ho MW, Burcher S, Lim LC, et al. Food Futures Now, Organic, Sustainable, Fossil Fuel Free , ISIS TWN, London, 2008.
  6. GM Science Exposed: Hazards Ignored, Fraud, Regulatory Sham, Violation of Farmers' and Citizen's Rights , ISIS CD book, a compilation, updated to 2009,
  7. Heinemann JA. Hope not Hype, The future of agriculture guided by the International Assessemtn on Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development , Third World Network, Penang, 2009.

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There are 5 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Juztine Luigi Comment left 18th July 2009 19:07:08
The sugar industry in Negros is dying. Having GMO will surely exterminate and destroy the industry. When will we learn our lessons?

tony villar Comment left 16th July 2009 22:10:35
the sugar industry in philippines will be destroyed once the genetically engineered sugar cane varieties are introduced

Gilbert Newsome Comment left 17th July 2009 19:07:45
GMO kills bio-diversity. Instead of many types of vegatable or fruits, there will be one sterile variety, designed to kill what eats it. GMO food is not labled in the US and is causing alot of alergies doctors cannot diagnose, like Morgellons.

Prince Pieray C. P Odor Comment left 17th July 2009 23:11:33
I have been very pleased with the REAL scientific publications that you have been making available to me through my e-mail address and must say Thank you very much for your wonderful work -- Prof. Cummins, Prof. Sanders and the very intellectual and indefatigable Dr. Ho, a unique woman. This letter is a particularly excellent way of showing that you have transcendental or priceless value for human life and health, and that you mean to promote these firmest props of human development, national security, prosperity and world civilisation, free from the politics, commercialism and globalism that makes the actions that are based on belief, wish, and hope have the names bioscience, biotechnology and and genetic engineering. Please consider writing my federal government, federal legislators, and the Federal Ministers of Agric, Sc. and Tech, and Health, because they are collaborating with Monsanto, USAID, CGIAR, and others by promoting genetically "modified" (poisoned)foods production and consumption, and working to constitutionalise (legalise) and institutionalise their production and consumption. I am doing my best, at a lot of cost to my personal and very meagre finance, and health, but higher and thicker than Jefferson's wall of separation has been built between them and me. I have no evidence that some people have been bribed by Monsanto and the USAID, but it is a strong and real possibility. Thanks, and never give up or compromise your excellent work for HUMANITY AND GOD. My heart goes to Prof. Arpard Pusztai whom I must wish progressive and full recovery. Prince Pieray C. P Odor Lagos, Nigeria

mae-wan ho Comment left 17th July 2009 23:11:02
Hello Prince Pieray, thank you for your very effusive praises. But please forward our articles to your elected representatives! It is much more effective coming from you.