Farmer-scientist group exposes controversial technology

Golden Rice will endanger Filipino

farmers and consumers

 

Farmers, scientists and consumers show a number of vegetable and fruits that are rich in Vitamin A, and are naturally found in the farms.

Farmers, scientists and consumers show a number of vegetable and fruits that are rich in Vitamin A, and are naturally found in the farms.

Los Baños, Laguna – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG today exposed the impacts of Golden Rice saying that it is nothing more than a tool to deceive people into accepting genetically modified foods in people’s farms and tables. According to the network, Golden Rice proponents and lobbyists are merely using the malnutrition issue to sell their technology at the risk of the Filipino peoples’ health and the country’s agrobiodiversity. The network also denounced the visit of Allow Golden Rice Now!, a Canada-based advocacy group which is currently in the Philippines promoting the adoption of Golden Rice.

Golden Rice is a genetically engineered rice that has been modified to express beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, which is one of the essential micro-nutrients that the body needs. Golden Rice, which is being developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), will supposedly address Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) in developing countries such as the Philippines. A known pro-Golden Rice lobby group, the Allow Golden Rice Now! headed by Dr Patrick Moore, is in the country at present to promote the technology amidst the intense rejection and resistance of farmers and consumers.

MASIPAG however, believes that Golden Rice is only intended to project a clean and wholesome image for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and make it acceptable, since Golden Rice is aimed for so-called “humanitarian purposes.”

“Proponents claim that the high case of VAD in poor countries like the Philippines can be solved by Golden Rice, and that it is a crime against humanity not to allow it,” said Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “We believe however, that the only crime being committed is subjecting rice, a staple food of millions, to an unsafe and yet unproven technology.”

Dr. Medina cites recent studies and pronouncements of various scientific bodies and authorities that point to the possible negative impacts of genetic modification. According to several studies, genetic modification alters the original genetic make-up of the organism, producing new chemical products that can have negative, unintended and uncontrolled consequences.

“Golden Rice has not been tested for safety,” said Dr. Medina. “The only testing that the proponents have done was to determine its agronomic traits thru open field testing, which has failed miserably.”

In 2014, IRRI has announced that it has pushed back the commercialization of Golden Rice due to its very low yield performance. At present, there have been no studies on allergenicity and toxicity of Golden Rice, which should be first established in animal feeding trials before feeding trials on humans commence. So far, the only feeding test of GM rice conducted were in China, which was met with ethical issues as the project leaders failed to inform the children and their parents that it was GM rice they were feeding them with.

 

A guise for corporate control

MASIPAG believes that while VAD is a serious concern, there have been cheap, practical and viable ways to address the issue that have contributed to its decline. In fact, the percentage of children aged 0-5 years with VAD have already decreased to about 15% in 2008, mainly from the Department of Health (DOH) interventions such as Vitamin A supplementation and food fortification.

“We have many traditional food and crops that are rich in Vitamin A,” said Virgie Nazareno, a MASIPAG farmer from General Nakar, Quezon. “We do not need Golden Rice, what we need is access to these nutritious and safe foods.”

MASIPAG has been at the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement in the country for almost 30 years putting emphasis on developing food security among the resource-poor farmers in the country.

“So if we have an abundant source of Vitamin A-rich foods, and that the government has so far successful in addressing VAD, why push for Golden Rice?” asked Nazareno. “We believe that Golden Rice, whose research has been hijacked by agrochemical company Syngenta, is meant to gain control over our rice and agriculture.”

Golden Rice is largely tied with patenting issues, which could jeopardize millions of farmers who rely on free sharing, saving and improvement of seeds. Syngenta, while claiming that the Golden Rice will be made royalty-free for farmers earning ten thousand dollars or less a year, has not yet relinquished their more than 70 patents to the Golden Rice technology.

“That alone is highly suspicious, and which should serve as caution to us farmers,” said Diego Dela Cruz, Jr. a farmer from Agusan del Sur, and a prolific rice breeder of MASIPAG. “When these companies get hold of our seeds, poor farmers will have to buy seeds again and again, leaving us dependent on these TNCs. We cannot trust these corporations who are willing to endanger millions of farmers and consumers just to gain profit.”

 

Golden Rice will not solve hunger and malnutrition

“Micronutrient deficiencies are largely observed among children in poor families since they cannot afford a well-balanced diet,” asserts Dr. Medina. “In that case, Golden Rice is not the solution; what is needed rather is the peoples’ access to resources.”

MASIPAG further asserts that the solution to hunger and malnutrition lies in comprehensive approaches to ensure food security and not thru market or profit-oriented approaches. Golden Rice will never solve VAD but would only strengthen this status quo, benefiting only those interested in controlling the nation’s agriculture sector. ###

Job Vacancy: Regional Coordinator for MASIPAG in Mindanao

MASIPAG is a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, non-government organizations and scientists working towards the sustainable use and management of biodiversity through farmers’ control of genetic and biological resources, agricultural production and associated knowledge. Our main mission is to improve the quality of life of resource-poor farmers.

We are looking for a regional coordinator for our unit in Mindanao who will manage the operations of MASIPAG in Mindanao together with the Regional Project Management Team. The Regional Coordinator coordinates and oversees the activities of member-organizations, provincial bodies, non-government organizations and local scientists. S/he reports to the Regional Project Management Team and the National Executive Committee of MASIPAG.

Duties and Responsibilities

  1. Coordinate region-wide activities of POs, NGOs, local scientist and members of MASIPAG in the region
  2. Build network and link with other Sustainable Agriculture advocates and partners.
  3. Facilitate quarterly meetings of the Regional Project Management Team  (RPMT).
  4. Monitor, evaluate and feedback on the status of the network plan implementation with the RPMT.
  5. Represent the region in the Executive Committee meetings and other national and regional activities of MASIPAG.
  6. Supervise regional staff.
  7. Catalyze/facilitate/oversee day-to-day implementation of the Regional Plan.
  8. Submits quarterly report to the Regional Project Management Team and the Executive Committee.
  9. Perform tasks delegated by the chairperson of the RPMT.

 

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

  • Pro-farmer; must be familiar with MASIPAG’s work.
  • Knowledge about sustainable agriculture, a degree in Agriculture or related fields is preferable.
  • Knowledge and appreciation of the issues being promoted and confronted by MASIPAG.
  • A team player
  • With excellent organizing and facilitation skills
  • With excellent project administration and management skills
  • Must have technical skills on Report and Proposal writing
  • Must have networking and negotiation skills
  • With proven dedication to her/his work
  • Willing to travel to different provinces within the region

Interested parties please email applications and CV directly to:

Dr. Chito Medina

National Coordinator

info@masipag.org

Goodbye, Tatay Francis

November 13 – MASIPAG Board Member Francis Morales (fondly called Tatay or Father Francis) passed away Wednesday night due to acute lymphocytic leukemia. An environmental activist, 63-year old Francis has tirelessly worked for environmental protection, climate justice, sustainable agriculture and peoples’ rights.

According to Mindanews, Francis has just came home from Tacloban City where he participated in a conference commemorating the first anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda. He was supposed to share the situation of the survivors of Typhoons Pablo and Sendong, but was already suffering from fever and chills.

Francis Morales 1951-2014

Francis Morales
1951-2014

Francis was the Executive Director of Balsa Mindanao which was formed after the succession of super-typhoons in Mindanao and was aimed to mobilize people’s networks for relief and rehabilitation, and calls for people’s disaster response and climate justice. He also served as the Advocacy Officer for the MASIPAG Mindanao regional office until 2006 where he helped in the various campaigns against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), development aggression projects such as mining and plantation and aerial spraying among others. In 2007 he was selected by the MASIPAG General Assembly as one of the NGO representatives in the Board of Trustees.

“We in MASIPAG, farmers and staff alike, are saddened by Francis’ sudden demise,” said Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator for MASIPAG. “His wholehearted dedication to fighting for peoples’ rights will serve as inspiration to us all.”

Francis is survived by his wife Nena Morales and daughter Raray. #

 

Balsa Mindanao’s Francis Morales: “dauntless, tireless and selfless activist” (Mindanews)
Envi activist, sustainable agriculture advocate dies (Davao Today)

 

 

 

On the Occasion of World Food Day

Farmer-Scientist Group Call for Safe Food and Organic Agriculture Support

 

October 16 – Smallholder farmers from various provinces in the country will be commemorating World Food Day by expressing their rejection of genetically modified food while drawing attention to the valuable impact of organic agriculture. Members of the farmer-scientist group MASIPAG will be holding a wide range of activities from Luzon to Mindanao including mass actions, public forum, media conferences and organic food and products display, among others.

“This year’s World Food Day theme is about family farming, and their significant role in achieving food security, sustainable livelihoods and rural development,” said Cris Panerio, regional coordinator for MASIPAG-Luzon. “Yet, our very own small-scale farmers continue to face threats from genetically modified organisms such as the GM corn and Golden Rice.”

MASIPAG is a 29-year old network of farmers, scientists and non-government organizations pushing for farmer-led sustainable agriculture and farmer empowerment. Member farmers of MASIPAG have achieved varying degrees of success in organic agriculture where members have been able to improve farm production through the combination of using locally adapted rice varieties, farm diversification and advocacy for better community legislations and programs.

“Through sustainable agriculture and organic farming, not only were we able to improve our farm production, but it also helped us farmers become an important part of community development,” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG Chairman and a farmer from Negros Occidental. “We are able to assert our inherent rights against technologies and projects that could harm our farm, our health and our livelihood.”

MASIPAG has also figured in the campaign against Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice that will supposedly address Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. Golden Rice has been field tested in the Philippines in anticipation of its eventual commercialization. After the intense opposition from various farmers and consumers groups, including the uprooting of the clandestine field trial in Camarines Sur, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) postponed the commercialization, citing the failure of Golden Rice to produce better yields.

“Genetically modified crops such as the Golden Rice are direct threats to sustainable agriculture,” said Mamerto Pado, Chairman of MASIPAG in Camarines Sur. “GM crops can potentially harm our environment, from which poor farmers are dependent for natural resources; and GM foods can harm our health.”
No benefits from GMOs

GMOs are considered by many experts as potentially harmful due to the possible unintended effects that could occur. Incidences of GM crops contaminating non-GM crops have been documented in several countries, including the United States and Canada. Scientific studies on the health impacts of GM crops have also been conducted showing alarming effects among laboratory animals. These studies have been largely ignored and discredited by GM transnational companies.

“GMOs are a technological fix that is meant to address complicated problems with just a single solution,” said Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG National Coordinator. “Consider the Golden Rice – it is only meant to address Vitamin A Deficiency when in fact, the problem on malnutrition involves other nutrients as well, which is caused by the lack of access to safe and sufficient food.”

Speaking from the ongoing Organic World Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, Dr. Medina claimed that only the giant agrochemical companies benefit from the profits of GMO seeds and chemical inputs, while leaving the smallholder and family farmers poorer and hungrier.

“It is not enough to celebrate the essential role of smallholder farmers during World Food Day,” said Dr. Medina. “What is more urgent and important is to address the threats to their food security.”
Filipino farmers against GMOs

In Luzon, farmers from Camarines Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Quezon will be putting up “GMO-Free” signboards in their organic farms, to encourage farmers and communities to protect their rice and other crops from the expansion of GMOs. Farmers also encourage communities to call for ban GM crops and products in their food and agricultural farms.

In Iloilo City, a trade fair of organic products will be conducted to showcase the food diversity of Ilonggos that are sure sources of vitamins and minerals.

Simultaneous mass mobilizations in different rice-growing areas in Mindanao are slated to call on the Department of Agriculture not to allow the commercialization of golden rice. Other activities in four municipalities in Mindanao include forum on golden rice and organic agriculture, organic food and products fair, press conference, concert, cultural presentations (reading of poems on organic agriculture composed by farmers), t-shirts printing, dissemination of campaign materials, sharing of farmers’ practices and innovations, boodle fight, and opening of organic trading post.

“We decided to conduct these activities on the occasion of the world food day celebration because we want to generate a strong public opposition against golden rice which we believe is a poison disguised as food,” said Diego Dela Cruz, chairman of the advocacy committee of MASIPAG. “We are also maximizing this popular global event to popularize further organic agriculture, the future of food,” he added. ###

Organic food growers seek easier way of certification

DAVAO CITY—Groups of organic farmers and environment advocates are asking the government to make it easier for organic food growers to get certification that is needed to sell their products bearing the organic (grown without chemicals) label.

Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of farmers and scientists’ group Masipag, said most farmers in the country stay away from organic food growing because they can’t afford the P50,000 fee for certification of their produce as organic.

Medina said one solution would be to make the certification system more affordable.

In this city, the more affordable certification process, called Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), has been launched to coincide with the opening of the Kadayawan organic food and product fair.

The cost of PGS certification can be as low as P700 to P1,000 for a 2-hectare farm in Quezon province to a high of P3,000 for a farm area of over 2 ha.

“That’s very cheap compared to third-party certification, which costs P50,000 a year,” Medina said during the National Conference on Organic Agriculture held here on Tuesday.

“This way, we can make it more affordable, more accessible to small farmers, who make up most of the food producers in the country,” he said.

The Davao City PGS team is composed of representatives from Masipag, Moral Economic Technological, Socio-Cultural Aspirations (Metsa) Foundation, the environment group Interface for Development Intervention, Go Organic Davao City, Ateneo de Davao University and the City Agriculturist Office, among others.

The certification system would ensure consumers that products classified as organic in the market are really organic.

But the Organic Agriculture Act recognizes only organic produce that are certified through the more expensive third-party system.

“In effect, the law will exclude those who are practicing first, or second-party certifications, among them the PGS,” Medina said.

“Farmers who cannot enter this scheme, mainly small farmers, will not be entitled to grants, incentives and support,” he said.

Anita Morales, Metsa president, said many farmers were now producing organic food, but could not label their produce as such because of the lack of certification. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

 

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer