On its 56th anniversary, IRRI still a failure

In the wake of ‘El Nino Massacre’ in North Cotabato
IRRI’s 2nd Green Revolution a failure, Filipino farmers still hungry and poor

Los Baños, Laguna – On IRRI’s 56th anniversary, farmer-scientist group MASIPAG called on the institution to immediately shut down its operations in the Philippines as it failed miserably to address the impacts of climate change resulting to deeper hunger and poverty. Last Friday, farmers coming from North Cotabato and nearby provinces in Mindanao held a barricade in Kidapawan City to call for rice subsidy as most of the farms were affected by the drought brought about by El Nino. Instead of addressing the farmers concerns, the protest was met by gunfire, with three farmers confirmed dead and scores of farmers, and possibly women and children, wounded.

“IRRI for 56 years fave failed the Filipinos! For many decades it has lured the farmers in using modern but high-input rice varieties that will supposedly ease the hunger of farmers. It did not even contented itself with its first Green Revolution, it is now promoting a Second Green Revolution purpotedly to address the effects of climate change on rice. But none of these grandiose projects has really lifted the lives and livelihood of the farmers. The Filipino farmers are still among the poorest and hungry among Asia” said Dr Chito Medina, national Coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG.

MASIPAG calls for the immediate closure of IRRI stating that the first Green Revolution wreaked havoc among the Filipino farmers. Thru the Green Revolution, farmers incurred huge amouts of debts as IRRI shifted the farmers sustainable agriculture practices into dependency to expensive external inputs such as modern seeds and chemical fertilizers. The small farmers were left behind, as huge agrochemical TNCs and local businessmen gained and reaped the profit from the sale of seeds and other off-farm inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. With the Green Revolution, the farmers became entrapped with the high-cost and chemical-intensive agriculture system made worse by the abuse of loan sharks and huge rice cartels. In the end, the farmers who have been feeding the nation are food and financially poor.

“Erosion of rice genetic diversity was drastic, with rice varieties in Philippines totaling to more than 4,000 were wiped-out and replaced by a few high-input varieties with narrow genetic bases. Rice varieties that have been part of the Filipino culture, whose traits that we as a country may benefit in this worsening climate, are now secured and controlled by IRRI. They are the ones who are profiting and gaining from our rice varieties” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG’s Chairperson and farmer-leader in the province of Negros.

The Green Revolution also affected the soil’s capacity to regenerate. “In the advent of the Green Revolution our healthy soil, which is the foundation of our food production, is becoming sterile as farmers are trying to raise yield by putting more and more fertilizers. Now the soil is acidic and very much degraded. We have to apply more and more fertilizers just to achieve the yield that we need in order to recover from our expenses” added Seguiro. Studies have also shown that the use of fertilizers, such as urea, greatly contributed to the release of greenhouse gases (GHG) contributing to global warming.

 

IRRI’s Second Green Revolution – the failure of the First Green Revolution continues

MASIPAG criticized the Second Green Revolution as a rehash of the First Green Revolution. IRRI is at it again by prescribing rice varieties with a narrow genetic base, but this time with selected climate tolerant traits such as ‘submarine’ rice. These varieties, and the way it is being promoted, are likely to fail as it is very prone to selective pressures due to the unpredictability of the weather. Apart from high-input climate tolerant varieties, it will also promote genetically modified rice varieties such as Golden Rice and C4 rice, a GMO whose energy production can be found in corn supposedly making it more efficient and tolerant to drought. With this new program, IRRI is geared to reach farther and wider that it did during the first Green Revolution.

“With the unpredictability of the changing climate, farmers have no means of telling whether or not their farms will be affected. IRRI, however, is at it again by using ‘high-science’ by transferring climate resilient traits derived from existing rice varieties into high-input varieties. As no one can really tell when or where the impacts of climate change will hit, aside from identifying climate tolerant varieties farmers are also using nature’s strength by relying on diversity. They are planting several varieties of rice with different traits and characteristics as insurance on whatever impacts the climate may bring them. This is farmer-led agriculture coping with the changing climate” added Medina.
MASIPAG has been establishing local seed banks and trial farms protected and cared by small farmers to help them cope with climate change. It has also been teaching farmers to diversify their crops, promote organic agriculture, and to strengthen farmers’ network so that they may help each other in times of difficulties and calamities.
MASIPAG said that IRRI is repeating its mistake by making farmers dependent on modern but input-dependent technologies controlled by huge multinational companies in agriculture.

“The truth is while IRRI at one level may have succeeded in increasing the yield of rice, but it failed in eradicating poverty and hunger as these technologies are very much expensive for the farmers. Most of the time they don’t even have rice for their families, such as what happened to farmers in North Cotabato. They are dying of hunger. We are thus calling for the immediate shut down of IRRI and no to another Green Revolution for failing the Filipino people” added Dr Medina. ###

Farmer-Scientist Group Condemns Kidapawan Carnage, Demands for Immediate Relief to Farmers affected by El Nino

kidapawan carnage

DAVAO CITY PHILIPPINES — Farmer-Scientist group MASIPAG seriously condemns the violent dispersal of the four-day farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City last April 1, 2016. Also dubbed as the ‘El Nino Massacre’, the carnage in Kidapawan North Cotabato claimed at least three lives, seriously wounded ten people, and injured more than a hundred with more still missing due to the violent dispersal.

“We condemn in strongest terms this state brutalities inflicted against our poor farmers and indigenous peoples who asked for rice amidst the hunger brought by El Nino” in a statement by Leo XL Fuentes, MASIPAG Mindanao’s Regional Coordinator.

As early as January various provinces in Mindanao, including North Cotabato, declared a state of calamity as El Nino severely scorched farmlands leaving farmers without harvest or food for their families. Farmers from different municipalities of North Cotabato called for the release of 15, 000 sacks of rice and access the calamity fund to provide immediate relief for their hungry families. While it is reported that millions of pesos were available for the said calamity, these however did not reach the needy farmers.

The network also criticized the national government for its neglect and inaction, saying that as early as 2015, weather advisories have already warned about El Nino and the severe impact it may bring to the agriculture industry.

“The demand for calamity assistance and rice subsidy is more than legitimate and in fact it is the state’s duty and responsibility for its people. The consistent neglect and inaction of the local government unit and various government agencies to address the impacts of El Nino had forced the farmers to put-up a barricade in order to call the attention of the local officials” Fuentes added.

As the negotiations collapsed due to the refusal of the government to provide rice to hungry farmers, a five minute ultimatum was given by the police and subsequently dispersed the protesting farmers with water cannons and truncheons. After which, farmers heard gunshots and saw some of their companions already wounded or dead. To date, about 6,000 farmers and their families are now holed up at the United Methodist Church compound as police forces have reportedly cordoned the area.

“This only exposes how the government and its policies are detached to the plight our people. Why is it so hard for this government to provide food to our tillers in times like this? If they can fire bullets, which cost as much as a kilo of rice, why then that they cannot simply release the rice intended for calamity victims? It is with deep sadness to see state forces shooting at our hungry and needy farmers, the sector we owe for our daily food. We are calling for an impartial and independent investigation on the matter and that justice may be served to the farmers” said Fuentes.

MASIPAG also expresses its condolences to the victims and their families and solidarity to the remaining farmers that are reported to be unjustly detained in a church in Kidapawan. The network is also calling for the immediate resolution of the matter. ###

MASIPAG Welcomes Marlon and XL

MASIPAG stands solid and true to its mission of serving the small-scale farmers in Mindanao. Helping to ensure the steadfast commitment of empowering farmers and their communities for a better society are Marlon Recidoro, MASIPAG-Mindanao’s Regional Project Management Team (RPMT) Chairperson and Leo “XL” Fuentes, Regional Coordinator.

Marlon is an organic farmer from South Cotabato and is currently the Vice-President of the farmer’s organization Sto Niño Integrated Farmers Association (SINFA). Marlon practices diversified farming in his San Isidro hometown.

marlon2

Leo, or more commonly known as XL, is an advocate of Sustainable Agriculture. He earned his degree in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Aside from being an organic food enthusiast (he manages an organic café in his hometown Compostela Valley), XL also currently writes for DavaoToday.Com in the column GreenMinded: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today.

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Along with the rest of the RPMT, Marlon and XL are focused on further strengthening the peoples’ organizations (PO) members of MASIPAG. Already, they have conducted several trainings and orientations among the POs to fortify their sustainable agriculture production and reinvigorate their commitment for genuine rural development.#

Multi-sector groups march against railroading of new GMO rules

JDC Mob2

Quezon City, 23 February 2016— A multi-sector action composed of civil society groups and peoples’ organizations representing farmers, the academe, consumer rights advocates and sustainable agriculture advocates, marched today to the offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) to demand informed, adequate and meaningful public consultations before the issuance of a set of new rules on the research, commercial cultivation and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“We denounce the railroading of the public consultation process. There are no conclusive studies on the possible exposure to risks from GMOs as yet. The Philippine government has not even done any post-release evaluation of the impact on human and animal health, on biodiversity from GMOs, including those imported for feeds and processing into food. We lament that the government is rushing to issue new rules and is ignoring the precautionary principles[i], to the detriment of farmers, unsuspecting consumers, and other affected stakeholders,” said Sanshen R. Maglinte, spokesperson of Green Action PH.

The groups, which include ­­­­the petitioners in the writ of kalikasan against Bt talong, are calling on the government to apply the precautionary principles, which advises prudence in the absence of conclusive scientific evidence on the safety of GMOs. The groups are also questioning why the new rules are being rushed.

JDC Mob
“Though it may seem that the new Joint Department Circular (JDC) involves more government departments, agencies and committees, it still didn’t go through a meaningful and substantive participation of stakeholders and the public. The DA merely had token meetings with no proper feedback mechanisms nor ample time for scrutiny. As it stands, the new rules are still missing requirements for health impact studies regulatory standards and specific duties for regulation, and mechanisms to assure the independence of regulators. In short, there are still a lot of areas which need to be clarified and substantiated,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) National Chairperson Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano.

Last December, the Supreme Court already affirmed the May 2013 Court of Appeals order for a permanent ban on field trials of the genetically modified eggplant, Bt talong, and the temporary ban on development of GMOs. The ban is in place only until a new ‘administrative order’.

“In spite of the potential to cause serious harm to the environment and food safety for humans and animals are unknown, the JDC continues to rely on ‘substantial equivalence’ on the presumption that GMOs are the same as its conventional counterparts. But GMOs should be studied as unique organisms because they have unique genetic make-up and characteristics not present in their natural counterparts. They require more time and scientific attention. The JDC should be able to safeguard the health and other interests of the public, so why rush it?” Leonora Lava of Greenpeace Philippines asked.

Farmers from KMP said that big agro-chemical companies and businesses with import and biosafety permits expiring this month are the ones that will benefit from the railroaded process. “Profit-oriented multinational and transnational agrochemical companies promoting GMOs, in particular U.S.-based exporters of soybean, soybean meal, feeds and fodders, coarse grains, cotton, vegetable oil and other GMOs, are the ones who will really gain from this new JDC, not the Filipino producers and consumers,” Ka Paeng added.

Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG, one of the petitioners in the case, called on the government departments to focus more on agricultural systems that will benefit the environment and provide safe and sufficient food for the Filipino people. “There is a probability that after the JDC is passed, it will be business-as-usual again for biotech companies, importers and traders in which GMOs will easily penetrate our food systems. We are thus calling on the people to protect our fragile agricultural biodiversity and the farmers’ rights to seed, land and technology. We are calling for more public consultations, as it is the people who will bear the brunt of these unwanted and untested technologies. We are calling for sustainable, environment friendly and a farmer-led agriculture to achieve safe and sufficient food for all,” said Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG.

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An Open Letter to Secretaries Proceso J. Alcala, Ramon J.P. Paje,
Janette P. Loreta-Garin, Mel Senen Sarmiento;
and Mario G. Montejo on the
DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular No. 1, Series of 2016

We, civil society and peoples’ organizations, call on the Honourable Secretaries to extend, expand and improve the on-going consultation and approval of the DA-DOH-DENR-DOST-DILG-DTI-DFA Joint Department Circular to replace the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8 (DAO No. 8) series of 2002 to ensure informed, substantive, adequate and meaningful participation of all stakeholders. Otherwise, the approval of the current draft, set on Feb. 23, by the Honourable Secretaries, will defeat the decision of our Highest Court and violate the Filipinos’ Constitutional rights to health, a balanced and healthful ecology, information, and public participation.

In December 2015, the Supreme Court passed judgement to permanently ban the field-testing of Bt talong, and temporarily ban all applications for contained use, field testing, propagation, commercialization, and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pending new rules that will replace the flawed DAO No. 8. This was after the Highest Court’s finding that in the face of the uncertainty, and the possibility of irreversible and serious harm of GMOs based on the evidence on record, and current state of GMO research worldwide, the government’s regulatory agencies failed to operationalize the National Biosafety Framework (NBF) in the DAO No. 8, and failed to implement the NBF in the crucial stages of risk assessment and public consultation, including the determination of applicability of environmental impact assessment to GMO field testing thus compelling the application of the precautionary principle.

However, the very flaws of DAO No. 8 have not been corrected in the the draft JDC and the limited, fast-tracked consultation for the JDC once again leaves the Filipino public behind in the decision making.

Call for scientific studies and robust, independent assessments

The JDC continues to presume that GMOs are the same as their conventional counterparts and so requires no actual tests on their safety as food or feed despite lack of scientific consensus for this presumption and approach. As a precaution, we ask that the JDC provides for more scientific studies on the safety and actual and long-term impacts of GMOs; environmental impacts assessment; and social and other risks assessment.

We further ask for requirements for health studies; for regulatory standards, and definition of the responsibilities, duties and capacity of each regulatory body.

In the current draft, the DOH for example, is tasked with determining safety without elaboration; the environmental impact assessment is still not required; and safeguards are inadequate to protect the independence of regulators. Also, some sections still need to be clarified, substantiated and agreed on to operationalize the requirements of the NBF and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Provide for liability and redress mechanisms

We further ask the Honourable Secretaries that there should be provisions in the JDC for the following: notice and hearing of stakeholders’ opposition to GMOs application; appeal to a decision on application; protection and compensation of farmers whose farms get contaminated with unwanted GMOs; continuous impacts monitoring on health and environment considering that the negative effects of GMOs may take time before they manifest; labelling, for effective impacts monitoring; protection for scientists and researchers whose studies and experiments yield findings and recommendations against, or inconclusive for, GMOs; and protection and compensation for those whose health is harmed or when the environment is adversely affected by GMOs.

These are fundamental issues that were not covered or adequately discussed due to the limited and fast-tracked consultation afforded to the public.

We humbly urge the Honourable Secretaries to take this as an opportune moment to improve and strengthen the Philippine biosafety regulation through a careful, inclusive and transparent process.

Signed:

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF)
Greenpeace
MASIPAG
SIBAT, Inc.
RESIST Agrichem TNCs!
Green Action PH
SEARICE
CHIMES
AGHAM
Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation
SCM
TEBTEBBA
no2gmo
Save the Coconut Movement