Rise for Rice: Discussing Organic Farming and the Pathway to Food Sovereignty

Farmer organization holds event to highlight the role of heirloom crops and organic farming in feeding the nation.

By Yvette Tan

Good Food Community, a community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative partnered with Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) to host an event highlighting the role of local crops in securing the country’s food sovereignty. In other words, they wanted to show that Filipino farmers can be capable of growing enough food to feed its entire population without need for importation.

“Masipag is a national network of farmers organizations, NGOs, and scientists promoting sustainable agriculture in the Philippines,” says MASIPAG National Coordinator Cris Panerio. “We are in rural development work. Our people’s organization conserves and improves traditional rice varieties, among other traditional varieties like corn, native chicken, native hogs.”

Called Rise for Rice, the second in the series included a small buffet of different local organic rice varieties grown by MASIPAG members around the Philippines. There were also dishes made from vegetables sourced from Good Food Community as well as short lectures on the benefits of growing and consuming organic produce. “I believe that we have enough food crops (to) ensure the food security and the food sovereignty of the nation,” Panerio says. “We are a mega-center of diversity, not only in wildlife but also in agricultural-biological diversity.”

Nanay Virgie’s Story

Some MASIPAG members were on hand to share their experiences on switching to organic farming. Nanay Virginia “Virgie” Nazareno from Calacar, Quezon has always practiced organic farming because that was what her grandfather taught them. “Nagtatanim kami ng palay, gulay, niyog, saging, any kind of fruit trees.”

A member since 2002, she has always believed in organic farming, even—to quote the many hispters out there—before it was cool. “Tayo naman ay pwedeng magtanim ng wala naman tayong ilalagay na kemikal at mayroon naman kaming alternative. Halimbawa, nagco-compost kami para may mailagay kaming organic sa aming palayan, sa aming gulay, sa aming crops.”

But the biggest proof of organic farming’s effectivity for her, as with many farmers, is yield. “Sa ngayon ay pumapantay na din yung kita sa chemical at sa organic. Sa ibang area na medyo matagal na, lumalampas pa ang ani kumpara mo doon sa chemical.”

There is evidence to support this. “In 2008, we conducted an impact study of our program and we found that in terms of yield, our (local organic) rice varieties are comparable with the conventional ones. There is no significant statistical difference,” Panerio says.

He adds, “But in terms of income, MASIPAG organic farmers were able to get more from their organic farms compared to their conventional counterparts. Their production cost is less. They produce their own seeds, they are able to produce their own organic fertilizer. They don’t need pesticides, and they practice diversified integrated farming system. They were not only able to feed their families, but create surpluses as well that they can sell to their neighbors.”

Aling Aileen’s Story

Same with Aileen Bawet from Apayao Province. “Ang sinasaka namin, mayroon sa bukid, mga palay sa upland tsaka may prutas—rambutan, kape, at lansones, saging.”

A member since 2008, she has experienced firsthand the difference between organic and inorganic farming. “Ang malaking diperensya sa paglipat sa organic, hindi ka kinakapitan ng sakit. Kasi pag nasa chemical ka, hindi ligtas ang pagkain mo. Hindi mo pwedeng kainin ang pagkain na nakukuha mo. Sa organic, kahit sabihin nila na mabusisi sa paggawa sa pataba, mas ligtas ka naman at tsaka pareho ang ani.”

Apparently, they didn’t use to eat the cash crops they planted. Not anymore. “Pag gusto mo kumuha ng gulay at organic ka naman, ligtas po. Kahit hindi mo na hugasan, punta ka lang sa garden kasi may backyard garden ka rin. Tapos yung pagkain mo, bigas na galing sa sakahan mo. Di kami gumagamit ng pahalo-halo na vetsin, natural lang talaga.”

Solving the Issue of Food Security

Organic farming is just part of the equation. MASIPAG also encourages local marketing and processing to offer farmers more opportunity for income. Products are sold in nearby communities. In short, they practice locavore, slow food, farm to table dining, but without the fancy names. “In MASIPAG, when we say food security, it doesn’t only mean abundance,” Panerio says. “It means sapat, ligtas, at samu’t-sari. Samu’t -sari means diverse food because you cannot only be sufficient in rice. You have to eat rice with diverse agricultural products—vegetables, meat products, eggs—products that can be provided by farmers, actually.”

Adequate, safe, and diverse. Sounds like the recipe to a food-secure nation.#

Source

Farmer-scientist group says safe and sufficient food possible with sustainable agriculture.

Mandaluyong City – President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statement that the Philippines cannot achieve rice self sufficiency has disappointed the agricultural sector, particularly groups that are pushing for sustainable agricultural production.

MASIPAG, a farmer-scientist network advancing food security and farmer empowerment through the sustainable use and conservation of local biological resources, believes that with the appropriate policies and technologies, the Filipino farmers can produce enough rice for the country.

“Our MASIPAG farmers are able to produce enough food for their families and communities without the high cost and risks to health,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator. “Through diversification of crops, and integration of other agriculture components such as livestock, food becomes secure in the household and in the community.”

Farmers using the organic approach are able to reduce the cost of production since they do not have to buy farm inputs such as seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. Petroleum-based inputs such as fertilizers are subject to price increases add to the burden of the farmers. Chemical products such as herbicides with glyphosate have also been exposed as possibly carcinogenic, and have been banned in other countries.

By making and using of their own inputs in their production, farmers have less exposure to harmful chemicals, and have minimal cost of production. Meanwhile, consumers can enjoy healthier farm produce at a reasonable price. Organic, sustainable production likewise emphasizes the practice of diversifying the farm to include a wide variety of crops and livestock which assures the balanced diet of the family, especially the women and children.

At the Rise for Rice event led by MASIPAG, various products from the small-scale producers were made available, such as colored rice, vegetables and processed products such as cassava chips and herbal teas. Lively discussions about organic production, as well as the issues that affect the farmers and consumers are discussed, such as the genetically modified Golden Rice.

 

Rice Price Control

By establishing local farmers markets, producers are able to set their own fair pricing system that is just to both to them and the consumers. Even the organic rice, which sells at Php 90 per kilo at the least, can be sold as low as Php 60-70 per kilo. Aside from the minimal production cost, there is also a reduction in the transportation cost of the products which has been affected by the unmitigated oil price increases. This also means low carbon foot prints for the farmers’ products.

Meanwhile, the Dept of Agriculture (DA) has been coming up with stop gap measures to supposedly address the price inflation of basic commodities, including rice. Recently, it was announced that the DA will be enacting a policy imposing suggested retail price (SRP) for rice, fish, garlic and onion among others, despite having price control laws that are already existing.

“It is not enough the DA set and monitor the prices, because the inflation is significantly caused by the TRAIN Law,” said Virginia Nazareno. “This is what we should address to ensure that our ordinary consumers can have access to safe and healthy food and curb hunger and malnutrition.”

Change the policies to achieve sufficiency

While organic farmers are able to achieve food security locally, the national policies and government direction itself makes it hard to achieve self sufficiency.

“The President himself has stated that this is due to the shrinking agricultural land and the cash crop approach,” said Panerio. “If the government wants to seriously address food security and self sufficiency, then land should be distributed to the farmers, land conversion should be halted, and monocropping should be stopped.”

“The lack of government support is driving farmers away from agriculture,” said Lanie Guavez, a farmer from Camarines Sur. “Who then will feed the country? Shall we only rely on imports or hybrid and genetically modified products?”

“We implore the government to heed the farmers’ and consumers’ call to change the agricultural policies such as the promotion of chemical inputs, hybrid and genetically modified seeds, conversion of farmlands to monocrop plantations and other non-agricultural use”.

We should get out from trade agreements that perpetrate export-orientation and import-dependence and instead focus on developing and improving sustainable food production systems locally and nationally.

Through these necessary changes can we genuinely achieve food security and self-sufficiency, and assert our food sovereignty,” said Panerio. #

Global opposition says scrap Golden Rice as US FDA concluded it has no substantial nutritional benefit

US FDA approval highlights failure and futility of Golden Rice to address VAD


The recent US Food and Drug Administration approval of Golden Rice this May is the third safety stamp garnered by IRRI following Australia, New Zealand and Health Canada. In 2017, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) filed application for safety approval and trade liability clearance of Golden Rice despite not being intended for distribution in developed countries. Corporate proponents claim it is a win that will usher Golden Rice release in Asia, particularly Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia. However, strong and broad global opposition proves otherwise.

According to Stop Golden Rice! Network, “The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conclusion “that the level of beta-carotene in Golden Rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim” reflects the failure and futility of GMO Golden Rice to address malnutrition and Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD). The report adds no credence to the already soiled corporate narrative that bio-fortified GMOs exist to address hunger and malnutrition. The report is but a nail to a coffin signaling that nothing more than greedy corporate profit agenda drives the strings of deceptions and humanitarian myths revolving around this unwanted, unnecessary and useless yet over-hyped bio-fortified GMO”.

The network added that clearly US FDA’s conclusion is tantamount to admission that billions of dollars invested into Golden Rice development, promotion and intended release of Golden Rice were unnecessary and nonsensical. Further, farmers and consumers have access to more diverse natural, safe,nutritious, and Vitamin A rich foods which have significantly addressed local malnutrition and VAD problems.

Golden Rice: a looming threat, not a solution

A global coalition of civil society advancing food sovereignty denounced these foreign safety certifications reiterating that “We believe that the recent approvals of Golden Rice in the US and other rich countries are meant to influence or put additional pressure on regulatory bodies in developing countries to follow suit – especially in the Philippines and Bangladesh where IRRI’s application for Golden Rice remains pending and is strongly being challenged. It is ironic that the US , Australia, New Zealand and Canada that will not host field trials or actually produce and consume Golden Rice – are the first to give their nod. These countries will bear the lowest risks and impacts compare to target countries”.

A legal loophole in the Philippines stipulates that once commercialized in foreign countries and approved by international regulatory bodies, the application for direct use may commence despite ongoing national deliberation. This includes importation, consumption and launching of clinical feeding trials among children and women. IRRI is trying to bring Golden Rice into Philippines through this ‘backdoor method’, despite local administrative and people’s opposition. This brings us to the crucial question: whether IRRI is a public institution or further extension of corporate agenda and private profits? We would like to remind that Golden Rice proponents have been involved in unethical Golden Rice feeding scandal in China last 2009 to 2012 and holds no scientific legitimacy. Such violation should not be repeated in the Philippines.

The US FDA report was reviewed by independent scientists and noted that it acknowledged Schaub, et.al, 2017 findings on the degradation half-life of Golden Rice – meaning it retains 60% of its original beta-carotene levels after 3 weeks of storage and just 13% after 10 weeks. US FDA did not addressed lack of transparency, genuine public participation, actual safety evaluation, encompassing and sound scientific review which were raised during the past FSANZ and Health Canada approval. Since last year, TestBiotech already raised the issue of low nutritional viability, genetic instability and encompassing scientific review. A study by Bollinedi, et al, 2017 also revealed scientific findings on the threat of irreversible genetic contamination posed by open field trials and propagation of Golden Rice. Regulatory bodies have also turned a blind eye to the evident overwhelming and sharp public scrutiny and civil society opposition at the country level, especially in pilot countries Philippines and Bangladesh.

Corporate agenda for global monopoly and profit

The push for GM Golden Rice release in Asia is linked with the current aggressive moves of merging giant biotech corporate oligarchs – Monsanto-Bayer, Dow-Dupont and Syngenta (now ChemChina) to consolidate global corporate monopoly control of seeds and commodity food chains through GM corn, soya, cotton – and now rice. Previously, GMO crops were meant for feed and processing for industrial purposes and not direct consumption. This could change with GMO Golden Rice, which is a staple food for millions. It will be impossible to monitor and regulate the threat of contamination promised by Golden Rice as a GMO because of extensive consumption and global trade.

According to GRAIN, an international organization working to advancing community controlled and biodiversity based agriculture, Golden Rice is the first generation of biofortified GMO crops and its approval will pave the release of other GM rice and biofortified GM crops. Encroachment of GMO rice will virtually succumb a third of the global food system under corporate reigns with Syngenta/Chemchina and Monsanto/Bayer leading the rat race.

Growing Global call to Stop Golden Rice

To counter these foreseeable threats, the Stop Golden Rice Network recently launched an international campaign last April 2 to 4, 2018 in the Philippines to build a broad and strong global opposition to hamper its intended released early this year. SGRN is a pan-Asia network of more than 40 organizations from 12 countries opposed to the commercialization of Golden Rice and other forms of genetically modified crops. The network advances farmers rights to seed, land and resources; livelihood and food sovereignty; sustainable and ecology-based agriculture.

The network reiterated that “The recent US FDA as with the previous FSANZ and Health Canada approval are checklists of corporate lobbying and glaring lack of genuine regulation. Public action and vigilance is key to safeguard our rights to health, environment and safe food. This will not deter two decades of successful global opposition against Golden Rice which have impeded its release in Asia. Instead, these approvals add imperative to our global campaign call to liberate our land, farmers and food systems from the control of corporate greed, GMOs and toxic products in order to truly address the roots of malnutrition, hunger and poverty.” #

MASIPAG Participates in GMO Workshop in Hanoi

MASIPAG participated in the recently held GMO Multi-stakeholder Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam from May 21-22, 2018. Watch the video to know more about the value of protecting our rice varieties against the possible harm from genetically modified crops such as Golden Rice.

Watch the video here.

MASIPAG joins Asia Pacific Farmers Forum Meeting

MASIPAG joined the meeting of the steering committee for the first Asia Pacific Farmer’s Forum as INOFO representative. The meeting was held in Bangkok last May 29 and participated by representatives from regional and global organizations of peasants, fishers and small-holders.

The Farmer’s Forum is a bottom-up process of consultation and dialogue between small-farmers, IFAD and government for rural development and poverty reduction.

INOFO or the Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organization is a self-organized structure within IFOAM that specifically belongs to farmers and it aims to manifest the views and strategies of organized organic farmers and empower them as well. MASIPAG is represented by Ms. Virginia Nazareno as INOFO Convenor, assisted by Ms. Rowena Buena who attended the said steering committee meeting.#