updated 11/8/2007 11:43:54 AM ET 2007-11-08T16:43:54

Environmental groups assailed an Australian company's experimental dumping of urea in Philippine waters to try to fight global warming, saying Thursday the practice endangers marine life.

Australia's Ocean Nourishment Corp., or ONC, said there were factual errors in the environmentalists' claims.

ONC confirmed it has done small-scale experiments in several ocean sites worldwide, including one last month in the central Philippines' Sulu Sea in cooperation with University of the Philippines researchers.

The experiments involve injecting ocean areas with urea, which is animal or human body waste, to fertilize the growth of plankton, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to papers submitted by the University of the Philippines.

A joint statement from Greenpeace, ETC Group, Third World Network, SEARICE and Corporate Watch urged the Philippines and a U.N. organization called the London Convention to halt the testing.

"Large-scale urea dumping is treating our oceans like a communal toilet," said Wilhelmina Pelegrina of the Philippines-based SEARICE.

Greenpeace campaigner Jasper Inventor said it was "extremely irresponsible to test a speculative and unproven method, which potentially has high impacts on the environment."

Responding to the complaints, ONC's Managing Director John Ridley wrote in an e-mail that much of the activists' statement "is factually incorrect." He said that a possible larger-scale trial is under discussion with Philippine authorities, and that no agreement has been reached yet.

Ridley wrote that the experiment focuses on the potential to increase fish stocks, and "to sequester large quantities of carbon dioxide and therefore make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation."

"The R&D (research and development) efforts will develop over time in a controlled manner and in accordance with relevant legislation and regulations," he wrote.

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