Biodiversity, Permits, Evidence, Precaution, Constitutional, Property, Damages, Environmental Impact Assessments, Public Participation, Remedies

In this case, plaintiffs, a collective of environmental NGO, member of the civil society and scientist, challenged the decision of granting a Biosafety permits and allowing field test of a new pest resistant biotechnologically engineered aubergine.

The plaintiffs alleged that the field trials of the bioengineered aubergine were a violation of their constitutional right to health and balanced ecology because the environmental compliance certificate No.1151 was not secured prior to the project implementation and because there is no scientific peer reviewed studies that shows that the Bt gene used in the genetically modified organism is safe for human consumption and for the environment. Consequently, the plaintiffs called for the application of the precautionary principle to this case. In addition to that, the plaintiffs claimed that the field test project did not comply with the required public consultation under Section 26 & 27 of the Local Government code.

In front of the court of first instance and the court of appeal, the plaintiffs prevailed and the judges applied the principle of precaution and issued a writ of kalikasan against the defendants, namely the authorities in charge of delivering the different permits such as the Environmental Management Bureau, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, and the promoter of the bioengineered aubergines : the University of the Philippines Los Baños, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

The defendants appealed the decision arguing that they had respected all measures of environmental law and that there was no evidence that the Bt gene of the aubergine could cause any environmental damage or prejudice the life, health and property of the neighbouring inhabitants.

The Supreme Court upheld the decisions of the previous court and held that the risk of releasing biotechnological plants in a biodiversity rich country like the Philippines was too high because the natural and unforeseen consequences of contamination and genetic pollution would be disastrous and irreversible. At the same time, the Supreme Court considered that there was a preponderance of evidence that GMO could be a threat to both ecosystems and health. As a result, the Supreme Court supported the application of the precautionary principle and upheld the previous court decisions and dismissed the appeal.