1st Philippine Environment Summit February 9, 2016

A press conference was held on the first day of the 1st Philippine Environment Summit (February 9, 2016) in one of the meeting rooms at SMX Convention Center, the summit venue. In the panel were: Dr. Angelina P. Galang, President of Green Convergence, which was the organizer of the Summit; Sec. Ramon J.P. Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; and Dr. David Suzuki, renowned geneticist and author from Canada, one of the main plenary speakers.

The press conference aimed to formally brief the media covering the Summit program as a whole, to highlight the key environmental issues and speakers featured, and to share other salient information on the program. The journalists were mostly from the press corps of DENR and Philippine Information Agency.

As it was held immediately after the opening ceremonies and plenary session, the first speaker, Dr. Galang, stressed in her speech the issue of safe food which was the day’s focus in both the plenary session and the breakout sessions in the afternoon. Thus, the questions from the press were largely on food, mainly the popular issues of organic food and the “stigma” of its high cost, and about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the scientific explanation and arguments against it.

Salient points from the speakers’ remarks:

Dr. Galang: Safe food rules out genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and embraces natural, organic food. There are two recent developments in the Philippines opposed to GMOs – the Supreme Court ruling not allowing the use of GMOs in food production, and the new Administrative Order being consulted with civil society which is seen to encompass safe food production. She adds that as there are no definite proofs yet on the dangers of GMOs despite views of many independent scientists, we can follow the Precautionary Principle of exercising caution when not sure. She endorses organic food for those willing to pay the cost of eating healthy, as well as ordinary and readily available vegetables like malunggay and alugbati for all.

Sec. Paje: There must be caution in the use of GMO in food production, invoking the Precautionary Principle. He also explains that the use of chemical enhancers is a response to a need to increase food supply for an increasing population, a concern of the Department of Agriculture. On the other hand, organic food is indeed safe but still costly so that it is a challenge to produce safe food that can be enjoyed by many.

Dr. Suzuki: He asserts that GMO is a technology that we still don’t know much. It didn’t exist before so we can’t accurately anticipate results as yet. Nature is best, is an underlying, simple message of his in the discussion on GMOs when provoked to explain genetic engineering as in the recent developments on the stem cell.

As a summing up of the press conference, Sec. Paje found the Philippine Environment Summit a good avenue for government and civil society to consult with each other for better implementation of environmental programs.


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