Monthly Archives: October 2013

MASIPAG releases film about the plight of GM corn farmers on World “Foodless” Day

Calls award-giving body not to give recognition to Monsanto, TNCs

 

Los Banos, Laguna – “We loan the seeds, and pay upon harvest. We are usually left with empty sacks. So we loan for food and family expenses, and inputs to be able to plant for the next season. Upon harvest, we have leftover debt.” This is but one of the numerous testaments of farmers that farmer-scientist group MASIPAG has documented on film about the impact of GM corn in the lives and livelihood of corn farmers.

The film entitled “10 Years of Failure, Farmers Deceived by GM corn” shows the dire situation of corn farmers in the Philippines who have adopted GM corn. Amidst protests from farmers, scientists, consumers and basic sectors, GM corn was commercialized in the Philippines in 2003. At present, there are about 8 varieties of single, stacked-trait and pyramided GM corn approved by the government for direct planting. It is now planted in about 685,317 hectares of agricultural land allotted for corn.

The film documentary is based on the study done by MASIPAG on the socio-economic impacts of GM corn on farmers’ lives and livelihood after more than 10 years of commercialization. In the film, GM corn farmers relate how they became indebted because of the rising cost of GM corn seeds and increasing cost and quantity of inputs being used. The film also shared the farmers account on the effect of GM corn farming such as emergence of new pests, soil erosion, corn contamination and human and animal health impacts. Farmers also shared the difficulty to go back to traditional or organic corn farming because of the loss of traditional seeds and practices replaced by GM corn farming and the effects of neighboring GM corn plantations. The film documentary covers the islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The film is set to be released online on the observance of World Food Day. However, executives of agrochemical transnational companies Monsanto and Syngenta will be awarded by the World Food Prize Foundation on October 17. Awardees include Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer Robert Fraley. Fraley was responsible for the development of Monsanto’s genetically modified crops.

MASIPAG national coordinator Dr Chito Medina says that GM crops such as GM corn only enforces corporate control of agriculture. “It is quite tragic that on World Food Day, huge agrochemical companies who wrested away farmers’ rights on seeds, caused environmental degradation and pollution of our valuable genetic resources are put in high regard, while small and resource-poor farmers who nurtured the seeds and who feed the population are left landless and hungry.”

Medina also stressed that it is high time that the government heed the calls of the farmers and take policy recommendations seriously so as to attain food security thru sustainable and biodiversity-based agriculture. MASIPAG advocates for farmer-led sustainable and organic agriculture.

Recently, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development published a report on the importance of sustainable agriculture to ensure food security in a changing climate. In 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) said that the present chemical and capital intensive agriculture and the marginalization of small farmers are no longer tenable, and called on governments to redirect efforts to attaining sustainable practices in agriculture.###

Link to the video –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCuWs8K9-kI

IFOAM Recognizes MASIPAG PGS

After the induction of MASIPAG’s organic standards to the IFOAM Family of Standards, the organic agriculture umbrella organization has now recognized MASIPAG’s own participatory guarantee system (PGS). The MASIPAG Farmers’ Guarantee System (MFGS) is MASIPAG’s guarantee for organic products grown, processed and marketed by the farmers’ organizations. The MFGS was established in 2004 and has since then helped farmers’ organizations to market their surplus production allowing the small-scale producers to earn additional income for their household needs. PGS_Proud_to_be_Part

In 2011, MASIPAG applied for the recognition of the MFGS to IFOAM PGS to strengthen the credibility of the system and provide better basis of product certification. The IFOAM approval serves to validate the participatory nature of the MFGS where farmers and various community members themselves inspect and monitor the organic production. Member people’s organizations (POs) are also key players in marketing strategies and approaches which they implement and sustain. MFGS embodies the core principles of MASIPAG, which is to empower farmers and communities to improve their quality of life, as well as strengthen community relations and networks.

Currently, only the third-party certification system is recognized in the Philippines by virtue of Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010. Only the Implementing Rules and Regulations allowed for the limited use of first- and second-party certification, which was extended to 2016 according to the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 8 issued last March. MASIPAG, along with an alliance of PGS practitioners and supporters have been lobbying for the amendment of the RA 10068 to officially recognize the first- and second-party certification systems.

With its approval, MASIPAG can now use the IFOAM PGS Logo on various information materials. MFGS is the first PGS to be approved by the IFOAM from the Philippines. #

Court of Appeals affirms MASIPAG, Greenpeace petition against Bt eggplant field trials

Manila – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and individual petitioners are pleased that the Court of Appeals stood by its decision to stop the field trials of Bt eggplant. Bt eggplant (or talong) is genetically modified to produce its own toxin to kill the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB).

The court, in its ruling elucidated the possible harm Bt talong may bring. The decision said that “the testing or introduction of Bt talong in the Philippines, by its nature and intent, is a grave and present danger to a balanced ecology because in any book and by any yardstick, it is an ecologically imbalancing event.” The court also mentioned that even if there is no factual evidence that Bt talong may bring harm to health, there were also no factual evidence either that it may not cause harm to anyone. However, when a study of Gilles-Eric Seralini wherein rats were fed with Roundup-tolerant GM corn for two years developed health problems was presented in court, the seven expert witnesses who testified were not able to convincingly rebut the said study. Hence, the court granted the precautionary principle.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals also reaffirmed its decision on the issue saying that the respondents’ motions for reconsideration shows no compelling reason to warrant a reversal or modification of the court’s May 17, 2013 decision. In its May decision, the court granted the Writ of Kalikasan and Continuing Mandamus on the grounds: that there is no scientific consensus on the safety and impacts of Bt talong; that there is no Congressional enactment that governs GMOs like Bt talong; that precautionary principle is applicable in the light of uncertainties and inadequacy/ineffectiveness of the current regulatory system; Bt talong, with its social, economic and environmental impacts, should not be entrusted to scientists only but should involve the all stakeholders.

“This is but a vindication of our campaign against the entry of genetically modified crops in our food system” said Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of MASIPAG. “We laud the Court of Appeals for safeguarding the right of the people to a balanced and healthy ecology. This is an initial victory, as the country has about 70 GMO products which the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry approved for food, feed or processing. This includes GM corn, which for the past ten years is being freely planted in our country. Apart from unintended health and environmental effects, GM corn planting also led to the bankruptcy of corn farmers,” said Medina.

Recently, MASIPAG released a new study on the socio-economic impacts of GM corn on the lives and livelihood of corn farmers. The study showed ‘evidence of failure’, wherein farmers incurred huge debt because of the rising cost of GM seeds and its corresponding inputs such as fertilizers and herbicides. Since its introduction in 2003, GM corn seed prices doubled, and prices of fertilizers skyrocketed. Medina said that “in all, external inputs (seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) eat about 40-48% of the total expenses that a farmer spends per season, and all of these goes to the corn traders/financiers and agrochemical companies”.

Apart from decreased incomes, farmers also reported changes in soil fertility, increased soil erosion, contamination of corn varieties and negative effects on human and animal health.

“After ten years, we have yet to see a comprehensive post-commercial monitoring of GM corn. With hundreds of thousands of hectares planted to herbicide-resistant GM corn, estimates suggest that more than 5 Million liters of glyphosate are being dumped into our fields in 2011 alone. Herbicide application not only increases weed resistance, but the run-off also affects natural soil cover and increases exposure of farmers and consumers to the toxic substance. It is also reported that farmers and their families who ate GM corn suffer some form of toxicity. However, because of the lack of strict policies and regulations governing GMOs, these problems are put into the wayside,” added Medina.

Medina stressed that with recent ruling on Bt eggplant and the evidences on the experience of GM corn farmers, it is but fitting that the commercialization of GM corn, the continued field trials of Golden Rice and the importation of other GMOs be stopped. ###