Farmer groups hit PhilRice for renewed push to field and feed test Golden Rice

Science City of Muñoz – Farmer-scientist group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura or MASIPAG hit PhilRice for its renewed push to open field test and feed test Golden Rice.

Despite years of vehement public opposition to the field and feed test of Golden Rice in the past decade – a genetically engineered rice promoted for commercialization in Asia, the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), PhilRice has filed renewed application this year toopen field test the genetically modified crop in the municipality of San Mateo in Isabela and Muñoz in Nueva Ecija. It also applied for Direct Use, wherein target populations will be fed with Golden Rice to ascertain if Golden Rice is effective in providing Vitamin A to humans. More than a hundred farmers is holding a mobilization today in front of PhilRice’s gate as the institute commemorates its 32nd anniversary.

Golden Rice, a transgenic rice containing beta carotene is being heralded as the solution to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and PhilRice are pushing for the adoption of the said crop. However, the farmers believe the force behind this push is Golden Rice patent owner Syngenta and other giant biotech corporations including Monsanto. In 2013, more than 400 farmers, consumers and sectoral group under SIKWAL-GMO successfully uprooted the said transgenic crop in Camarines Sur, Bicol as a sign of protest.

“The Filipino farmers are strongly calling the DA-BPI to immediately deny PhilRice’s application to field test and feed test Golden Rice. Golden Rice would only further the corporations’ interest to control our agriculture thru the legitimization of seed patents. Also, Golden Rice is fraught with inherent problems. One of which is the low yield resulting to the disruption of the native structure of the rice plant” said Cristino Panerio , national coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG.

In recent study, scientists from India showed that the derived lines of Golden Rice produced phenotypic abnormality and poor yield performance making it unfit for commercial cultivation. Farmers are worried that the trait can transfer to other rice varieties or weedy relatives thru cross-contamination once the open field testing is approved. This will contaminate our indigenous and farmer-bred rice varieties and prove disastrous to the already volatile rice production in the country.

The group also cited that the application for Direct Use would subject unknowing communities to feeding studies in order to ascertain efficacy of Golden Rice. In a public dialogue on Golden Rice held by the National Anti-Poverty Commission or NAPC last August, medical doctors has warned that there are not enough data presented to establish safety of Golden Rice to human health thus warranting the discontinuation of human feed trials. During the dialogue, Dr Gene Nisperos of the Health Alliance for Democracy raised his concern as the target of Golden Rice are members of the vulnerable population such as preschool children and lactating mothers.

“Rice is a staple which you eat in the morning, lunch and evening, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The proponents are saying that Golden Rice is a food, yet they also state that it will provide 30-50% requirement of Vitamin A to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency. So the question is, is Golden Rice a food or a drug. There are two things, safety and efficacy – you do not talk about safety and efficacy in food, you only talk about these in terms of drugs. Yet Golden Rice is planned for widespread release” said Dr Nisperos during the dialogue.

The group also stated that the implementation of the Joint Department Circular (JDC) of 2016, the new policy that will oversee the regulation of GM crops, remains wanting. The said circular includes five departments such as the DOH, DOST, DA, DILG and the DENR who are tasked to oversee regulation, safety, precaution and public participation in GM crop applications. The group cited many gaps and holes in the implementation of the said policy citing lack of specific administrative orders of departments on how they will implement risk assessment and regulation of GM crops as required by the JDC. The group also cited the lack of public participation in each level of decision making.

“It is ironic that the JDC of 2016 is a product of the Supreme Court’s decision to ensure that the general public should always be included in every step of the decision making process in regulating GM crops. They were saying that they are holding public consultations but we have never received any invitation, while we have chapters in almost every province in the Philippines” said Joseph Canlas, Chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) during the NAPC dialogue. KMP is one of the convernors of the RESIST Agrochem TNCs, a broad alliance of farmers, consumers and sectoral groups against the control of huge corporations in agriculture.

The group is also questioning if the departments under the JDC have the expertise, capacity, technology and resources to ensure independence of research and putting premium on the safety of the consumers. Dr Chito Medina, MASIPAG partner scientist, said that Health Impact Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments as required under the JDC should be done by an independent group of experts, and the process cannot be confined from the data presented only by the proponents.

Renmin Vizconde, Advocacy Officer of the Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes added that “malnutrition and its resultant blindness exist because the basic rights of the farmers and people to land, livelihood are disrupted, due to government neglect and absence of social services, and not because the rice variety they consume does not have Vitamin A. Golden Rice is baseless, unscientific and nothing but a sensationalized product of giant agro-chem corporations to lure super-profits.”

“The GM Golden Rice program is ill-suited as Philippine society is primarily agrarian where the majority of the farmers are landless, thus, they need is a genuine land reform program or free distribution of land, that will fundamentally secure their food and nutrition needs,” said Vizconde.

“We must protect our rice. If Golden Rice will be approved, our future as farmers will be at risk. There won’t be anything left for us if our rice will be contaminated. This will also further legitimize the corporations’ greedy agenda to monopolize our seeds. Rice is life for us, we must fight for our rice” said Marcelino dela Rosa, MASIPAG farmer-breeder in the municipality of Cabanatuan.

MASIPAG farmers are also getting the support of organic practitioners and advocates attending the Organic World Congress in New Delhi, India from Nov 9-11, 2017. They hope that more and more countries and farmers around the globe would also speak up against the commercialization of Golden Rice and the corporations’ agenda on agriculture.###

Learning from the Seed Mothers of Amunda Village adivassis Gardua

Odisha, India – Members of the Stop Golden Rice Network held a learning exchange visit in India to learn about traditional rice conservation, indigenous knowledge systems and sustainable agricultural practices such as agro-ecology and organic agriculture. The participants included farmers and NGO staff from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.

One of the highlights of the activity was the field visit to Amunda Village among the Seed Mothers. The small village have traditionally practiced seed exchange, seed conservation and sustainable agriculture led mainly by women, known as seed mothers.

Seed mothers are designated by the tribe as the community’s seed keepers. They are depositories of rich agricultural biodiversity knowledge. They also facilitate village meetings to plan and ensure the success of annual seed exchanges within and among various villages.

One seed mother leads the seed and biodiversity conservation of 10 to 15 villages.

The small village of Amunda comprised of 53 households and has more than 30 rice varities, 50 kinds of millets/pulses, hundreds of vegetables and rootcrops which are grown thru out the year. The grids made by farmers is a biodiversity map representing crops harvested in a specific season. Seeds are also seen as sacred among the community. As one seed mother has said, ” seeds are the gifts of the Gods and not from you”.

This gathering is part of strengthening the ranks of small farmers and consumers in their fight to preserve and protect traditional varieties, to uphold farmers right to seeds and stop the introduction of genetically modified crops, specifically Golden Rice in their farms.

Click the link to our Facebook photo album to see more of the colorful and abundant seed collections of the Seed Mothers. #

MASIPAG Statement on World ‘Hunger’ Day 2017

As governments all over the world commemorate World Food Day, we the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikutlura (MASIPAG) is in solidarity with millions of Filipino farmers that are currently suffering from persistent hunger and malnutrition.

Amidst a world of plenty brought by increased food production, farmers and their families continue to suffer chronic hunger due to the commodified, market-driven and industrialized agriculture system. Based on recent data, about 11.3 million Filipinos are undernourished (FAO, The State of Food Security in the World, 2014). In the first quarter of 2016, 13.7 percent or 3.1 million Filipino families experienced hunger (SWS survey). Add to this the increasing rate of malnutrition among children aged 0-2 years, which is said to be the worst chronic malnutrition in the last 10 years according to the 2015 Updating of the Nutritional Status of Filipino Children study done by the FNRI.

In stark contrast, food insecurity is high in food producing areas, specifically among the farming sector. Farmers are obliged to sell most of their produce, which includes food supposedly allotted for the family’s consumption, in order to purchase costly seeds and chemicals being peddled by huge agrochemical companies. Farmer-saved seeds, which are supposedly free and sustainable, are seen as competition to privately-owned seeds. Private ownership of seeds is further strengthened by unfair trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which will force member countries to adopt UPOV of 1991, making seed-saving practices a criminal act. Add to this the cheap imported agricultural products being dumped in our country directly competing with our farmers’ produce.

While the long term solution to problems on malnutrition is increasing food diversity, sustainable food production and addressing landlessness and poverty, the government and its institution such as PhilRice instead pushes for the adoption of genetically modified crops such as Golden Rice as a band-aid solution to the prevailing problem Vitamin A deficiency. Golden Rice, a Syngenta-owned genetically modified rice touted as an answer to Vitamin A deficiency, is but a distraction to the farmers and people’s call for safe, sufficient and affordable food.

In spite of these challenges, small farmers are now slowly rediscovering their wealth and strength overshadowed by promises of good harvest and income being peddled by corporations. Thru sustainable food production and farmer empowerment, farmers are gaining more control over their resources, knowledge and production.

Safe, Sustainable and Affordable Food for All!

No to Corporate Control in Agriculture!
No to GMOs! No to Golden Rice!

[Closed] Job Opportunity

MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura, Farmer-Scientist Partnership), is a nationwide network of farmers’ organizations, scientists and non-government organizations working to empower resource-poor Filipino farmers through their control of seeds and biological resources, agricultural production and technologies, and associated knowledge.

Our National Secretariat office in Los Banos, Laguna is looking for a dynamic, self-driven individual who is committed to make his/her contribution to development work.

We are looking for a Project Account Assistant with the following qualifications:

  • A graduate of Business Management, Accountancy or any related courses
  • Must have knowledge on Basic Accounting functions
  • Must have strong organizational skills, arithmetic skills, clerical administration
  • Willing to work in Los Banos, Laguna

Fresh graduates are welcome to apply!

His/her responsibilities include:

  • Administrative and office support activities including
    • Assisting and recording transactions
    • Checking of attachments, series of check vouchers & cheque numbers
    • Checking cash liquidations and reimbursements of staff
  • Housekeeping/errands or any related activities
  • Filing of basic financial documents
  • Scanning and photocopying of receipts, documents
  • Issuance of official receipts
  • Perform other tasks delegated by the immediate supervisor.

Interested applicants may send their resume and letter of interest on or before September 27 to admin@masipag.org addressed to

Mr. Cris Panerio
National Coordinator

###

Congress Urged to Probe Golden Rice

Congress Urged to Probe Golden Rice

Quezon City – A House Resolution directing an inquiry on the controversial Golden Rice has been filed at the House of Representatives today, as an effort to stem the imminent re-introduction of the genetically modified (GM) crop in the country.

Genetically modified to express beta-carotene, the pre-cursor of Vitamin A, the Golden Rice is being touted by its proponents as a solution to the supposedly worsening cases of Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD). The GM rice has been field-tested in the Philippines back in 2011 in five separate locations in Luzon, despite the intense opposition from various farmers and consumers organizations. In 2013, more than 400 farmers, consumers, youth and other sectors uprooted the clandestine field trial in Pili, Camarines Sur. In 2014, the planned commercialization of Golden Rice was halted, with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, one of the major proponents of Golden Rice) declaring that the average yield of the GM rice is much lower than that of the local rice varieties.

Last April, applications for field trials and direct use for food, feed and processing (FFP) has been filed anew at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). Farmers’ groups, including MASIPAG, re-iterate their opposition against the new field trials and the renewed push for the Golden Rice.

“From the start, the Golden Rice has been beset with issues and problems such as its relevance, and its safety to human health and environment,” said Cris Panerio, MASIPAG National Coordinator. “The fact that the proponents are renewing the field trials and possibly commercialize it without addressing these issues show that they only care about putting it in the market regardless of its effects to the farmers and consumers.”

Safety of GMOs

There is no consensus on the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as the Golden Rice even among the scientific community. However, independent safety studies such as that of Dr. Eric Giles Seralini of France have pointed out to the alarming potential harm that GMOs have among mammals. Testing with laboratory mice have shown negative impacts on respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems, among others.

Likewise, the long-term impacts of GMOs in the environment are still in question. Experts argue that its dependence on chemical inputs, as well as the monoculture production system can lead to significant biodiversity loss. Even its supposed economic benefits have been proven to be inconsistent, failing many poor farmers due to the high cost of production which includes buying expensive seeds and chemical inputs.

“Rice is the staple food of Filipinos, and we eat it all the time,” said Marcelino Dela Rosa, a farmer from Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. “If a potentially harmful technology is applied to our rice, then it puts us all in danger and therefore it should be stopped.”

Public Kept in the Dark

One of the biggest issue about the testing for Golden Rice is the lack of transparency among project proponents such as the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice), IRRI and the Department of Agriculture (DA). The lack of meaningful public participation is glaring with no substantial consultations and dialogues that could address the concerns of the stakeholders especially regarding the safety of Golden Rice.

“This is very irresponsible of the proponents, and is a clear violation of the rights of the people to be informed and consulted, especially with matters that concern our staple food such as rice,” said Virginia Nazareno, a farmer from Gen. Nakar, Quezon. “Whatever so-called consultation processes they have are a sham, such as the limited posting of information in inaccessible sources and the very limited time of commenting and discussions.”

In July 25, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the regulatory body tasked to review the applications for new technologies such as GMOs have published the public notice in national dailies, as per the policy indicated in the Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1 Series of 2016. However, they only require 60 days period for public commenting which is deemed insufficient.

Field trials ‘secured’

Last August 29, however, an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer was published claiming that the applications for the field trials and direct use for food, feed and processing have been “secured.” This has created confusion among the stakeholders, including MASIPAG, as no approval should be given without exhausting the period for public commenting.

“We call for the BPI and the project proponents to clarify this news article,” said Panerio. “Does this mean that they have approved the applications even if the 60-day period is not yet up?”

“If it is, then they have violated the policies that govern these GMO applications and worse, they have betrayed the public.”

HR to Look Closely on Golden Rice

The proposed House Resolution will seek to facilitate further awareness-raising among stakeholders, and is expected to compel the Golden Rice proponents to be transparent on the status, process and plans for the GM rice.

“We are grateful to Rep. Casilao and the Anakpawis Partylist in taking up this issue as this is relevant not only to poor farmers, but to the consumers as well,” said Panerio. “We only hope that other legislators will also see the light and take part in protecting our rice and food security by scrutinizing the Golden Rice technology and its planned field trials and commercialization.” #