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.” #

MASIPAG Participates in Regional Sharing on GMO and Local Biodiversity in Vietnam

The Community Entrepreneur Development Institute (CENDI) together with local organizations SPERI, CIRUM, national organizations BIOTHAI, MASIPAG and international group GRAIN held a three day regional workshop to discuss the adoption of Genetically Modified crops in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

CENDI sees that the proliferation of GM crops and poisonous pesticides will affect the health and environment, the farmers’ rights to seeds and the customary traditions of the indigenous ethnic minorities. The activity was attended by key farmers, mostly coming from the Black Tai, Muong, Tay, Hmong, Nung, Co Ho, H’re and Ca Doong ethnic groups in nine provinces in Vietnam, the Lao Loum from Laos, and also participants from eight countries.

Monsanto, maker of genetically modified corn and herbicide weedkiller Roundup is now distributing its products in Vietnam, threatening the rich agrobiodiversity of the said nation. 

Farmer trainor Mamerto ‘Pay Merto” Pado of Camarines Sur shared insights on the current situation of agriculture in the Philippines, farmer-led advocacy and rice breeding.

For more photos, check out our album in our Facebook page. #

Asia farmers‘ network resound strong call to Stop Golden Rice!

Stop Golden Rice! Defend our Farmers‘ Rights! remains the resounding call of Asia farmers‘ network against the impending commercialization of Golden Rice in Asia. Four years after the militant uprooting of Golden Rice, waves of protest mobilizations stirs anew in the Philippines and Bangladesh against its commercialization, while debate rages on in Indonesia, India and other Asian countries where Golden Rice is planned for commercial release.

Today, a protest campaign in front of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) was held by hundreds of farmers and civil society supporters led by the National Women Farmers and Workers Association (NWFA) and Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation (BAFLF). A public forum on GMOs and Golden Rice was also held by NWFA and BAFLF few days back last August 4-5 in Gazipur to bring the public issue to the fore.

Nasrin Sultana of NWFA explained that “Since 2006, we have consistently protested and even formed a barricade in BRRI against Golden Rice. We denounce the government approval of Golden Rice commercialization. The public must be alarmed with the great risks of Golden Rice consumption to food safety and public health. Golden rice commercialization equates to billions worth of annual corporate profit in expanse of consumers’ health and farmers’ seed freedom. This cannot be allowed”.

The Golden Rice debate is marred by conflicts and controversy. After decades of research, the efficacy, safety and viability of Golden Rice remains uncertain and pose grave threat to food safety and consumers’ health. It is within this ground that government of China and academic journal publishers sanctioned and retracted the research work of scientists who engaged in unethical feeding of Golden Rice to children whose families were not informed that they were being fed Golden Rice last 2012. To date, there are no published reports proving that Golden Rice is safe for human consumption. Add to this the recent published study stating that Golden Rice is unfit for commercial cultivation due to poor agronomic performance leading to low yield.

Aliansi Gerakan Reform Agrari (AGRA), a national peasant federation in Indonesia in statement expressed that “Indonesia, as with the whole region, is also threatened by the growing corporate control over agriculture and consequent erosion of traditional seed resources. The government promotes GMOs and 80-90% of our soybeans and corn imports are GMOs. The Indonesia National Food Policy proclaimed to boost volume of food production, mainly rice production with the application of genetic engineering of 19 food crops, primarily rice, corn, sorghum, and soybean. Golden Rice will be an eventual real threat to our farmers, making it an imperative for us to campaign and support the Asia wide campaign against Golden Rice commercialization”

India host two-thirds of the world’s rice varieties. Campaigns in India have gained momentum against genetically engineered rice, including the Save our Rice network, the Folk Rice Movement and the Seed Mothers movement; all working to conserve and salvage thousands of traditional and indigenous seed varieties which would have otherwise been eroded by the onslaught of hybrid technology and conventional chemical inputs in the past decades. Recent news on the establishment of IRRI’s South Asia’s Regional Centre in city of Varanasi in the last quarter of 2017 have raised alarm as it may serve as a pretext to the government’s aggressive move to commercialize genetically engineered rice. The bitter tragedy hundred thousands of farmers succumbing to suicide in the past decade is linked with debt chains acquired from the seed monopoly of Monsanto thru BT Cotton in the cotton belt region remain to haunt the country.

In Philippines, the Golden Rice issue was stirred anew with the renewed application for field trial and direct use last February 2017 despite the absence of public dialogue. To commemorate the historic uprooting and protest action against golden rice last August 8, 2013, hundreds of farmers will gather to hold a public forum in Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, the rice granary of the country where Philippine Rice Research Insitute (PhilRICE) Golden Rice experimental fields are located. A civil society roundtable discussion on August 10 and a public dialogue between government and civil society will also be on August 11 within the national capital to re-echo public opposition against Golden Rice.

“Golden Rice is a greedy scientific enterprise of IRRI and corporations masked as humanitarian aid. It deviates from the real solution to malnutrition which is to fight poverty, uphold genuine agrarian reform and promote diverse nutritious, natural and easily accessible food sources. Its ultimate interest is to secure top profit arena and monopoly control of global food system since billions rely, produce and consume rice. The looming Golden Rice commercialization anchored on neoliberal market will flood the region with massive and unregulated trade of GM rice. This spells doom to our country where the quantitative restriction on rice importation will soon be lifted. Golden rice is a death reaper to our local local rice sector as traditional rice varieties will be vulnerable to GMO contamination. Stop Golden Rice! is a call to defend life and freedom against this oppressive claws of corporate control” stated by Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), a local farmer-scientist movement in the forefront of campaigns against golden rice commercialization in the past decade.

Since 2001, Syngenta (currently merged with ChemChina), Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among others have poured millions of funds thru the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the research and promotion of Golden Rice, a genetically engineered rice touted to address Vitamin A deficiency. But, strong and consistent peoples’ protests in the past decades impeded its planned commercialization particularly in Bangladesh, Philippines and India.

In August 8, 2013, more than 400 farmers led the historic uprooting of Golden Rice experimental fields at Pili, Camarines Sur to signal strong opposition to Golden rice trials and commercialization. Corporate proponents thru their media mouthpieces, such as Mark Lynas ang Patrick Moore, vilified the farmers’ direct action. The peasant movement in the Philippines, however, reiterated their dissent against Golden Rice as a legitimate conviction to defend rights against corporate control of agriculture thru GMOs.

An Asia Farmers’ Conference against Golden Rice was subsequently held in 2014 with more than 70 farmers, people’s organizations from the region echoing their stand against Golden Rice. The campaigns proved successful as it triggered broader public attention, institutional debate and exposed the deceitful corporate claims on the Golden Rice issue in the national and international arena – ultimately leading to postponement of its commercialization.###

Established in 2014 and reconvened this 2017, the Stop Golden Rice! Network is a regional campaign collaboration of more than 30 organizations in South Asia and South East Asia. It works against the commercialization of Golden Rice and other forms of genetically modified crops, towards a society with equity, food sovereignty, sustainable and ecology-based agriculture. This is joint statement of its lead convening organizations and networks.

STOP GOLDEN RICE! Network members:

RESIST! Agri-TNCs Network- Philippines, MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura), KMP (Kilusang Mangbubukid ng Pilipinas), PNSFP (Philippine Network for Food Security Programs), SIBAT (Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya), HEAD (Health action for Democracy), PAN Phils (Pesticide Action Network-Phils, TFIP (Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights), CENDI (Community Entrepreneur Development Institute), SRD (Center for Sustainable Rural Development), Vietnam, SPFT (Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand), AGRA (Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement), SERUNI National Women’s Alliance, Indonesia, NWFA (National Women Farmers and Workers Association), BAFLF (Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation), SHISUK (Shikha Shastha Unnayan Karzakram), Bangladesh, APVUU (Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union), ORRISSA (Organization for Rural Reconstruction and Integrated Social Services Activities), CREATE, India THANAL, India, Save Our Rice Network, India, PAN-INDIA (Pesticide Action Network-India), India, GRAIN, PAN-AP (Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific), APC (Asian Peasants Coalition), Consumers Union of Japan, Women’s Development Federation WELIGEPOLA, MONLAR, Sri Lanka


Nueva Ecija farmers, sectors call to stop Golden Rice field tests

About 200 farmers, consumers, church groups, organic advocates and other sectors convened in the city of Cabanatuan to calling the Department of Agriculture to deny the application of open field test of Golden Rice in Munoz, Nueva Ecija and in San Mateo, Isabela. The activity also commemorates the fourth year anniversary when 400 strong delegation of farmers and other sectors uprooted the field testing of Golden Rice in Pili, Camarines Sur. Golden Rice, a genetically engineered rice is seen as a ploy of Agrochemical TNCs to control the seed industry through GMOs. Currently two applications on Golden Rice are submitted at the DA-BPI and awaits approval.

Click here for photos of the activity.

No to Golden Rice! No to GMOs!

No to Corporate Control in Agriculture!

Safe, Sufficient and Affordable Food for All!

Food and Land, Not Bombs and Martial Law

Statement of MASIPAG MINDANAO on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao

The extension of Martial Law (ML) in Mindanao is a brazen attack against the Filipino people especially the Moro and the Lumad farmers across our island. While the Duterte administration insists that this will end terrorism, the Moro and the Lumads in the grassroots are much terrorized by state sponsored aerial bombardments, harassments and arbitrary arrests of farmer leaders.

Prior to the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, human rights abuses are being wantonly carried out by state forces and paramilitary troops. After the declaration of ML, more abuses have been documented. Even MASIPAG member People’s Organizations (POs) experienced state terrorism first hand.

In Compostela Valley Province, four farmer-leaders of Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) and a driver were arbitrarily arrested and charged with trumped up cases. In Monkayo town, officers of Monkayo Farmers Association (MoFA) were held by an army unit, but were fortunately released hours after intimidation. In Bukidnon and North Cotabato provinces, at least six member POs of MASIPAG experienced restrictions to attend to their farm.

Even in Davao City, since March this year, aerial bombardments caused series of evacuation in the communities of Marilog and Calinan Districts that affected at least three of our member POs.

The series of mass evacuations resulted not just displacement of people but also displacements of their livelihood. Since the Martial Law declaration, the frequent evacuation have disrupted farm activities and decimated important farm resources such as livestock. Their farmlands start to become barren when they are unable to tend them, as military and militia men restrict the movements of the farmers. Many communities remain in military hamlet.

With the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017, we can already expect a decrease in agricultural productivity, especially among the resource poor farmers in the countryside. As the extension of Martial Law employs more and more aerial bombardments, it is expected that more and more farmlands will be destroyed by bombs.

Today, as the president delivers his second State of the Nation Address, we farmers and scientists appeal to our government, especially to our president to stop dropping bombs in our farmlands and communities. The extension of ML will not do any good to our country. We need to continue to till our farms in order to feed this hungry nation. We need land and food, not bombs and carnage.#