Monthly Archives: December 2015

Stronger MASIPAG in Mindanao

Davao City — Farmers and NGOs gathered together to solidify their ranks during the 12th Regional Assembly of MASIPAG in Mindanao last December 18-19. With the theme “Palig-onon, palapdon ug isulong ang MASIPAG sa Mindanao! (Fortify, consolidate and advance MASIPAG in Mindanao!)” Farmers from indigenous communities, many of them women, from 48 farmers’ organizations and four NGOs affirmed their commitment in pushing for the empowerment of small-scale farmers through sustainable agriculture.

Masmin RA

Farmers and NGO representatives gathered together for the 12th Regional Assembly of MASIPAG in Mindanao

The assembly was attended by regular, associate, NGOs and scientists members and elected the new set of the Regional Project Management Team (RPMT). The new set of RPMT are Marlinda Inda from Bukidnon, Anita Pandian from Davao City, Reynaldo Anora from davao del Norte, Marlon Recidoro from South Cotabato, Casilda Galagala of RECAP and Anita Morales of METSA Foundation. They were sworn into office by Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG chairperson.#

Masmin RPMT

The new set of RPMT as they take their oath.

Farmer-Scientist Group, Petitioners Won Case Against Bt Eggplant

pay merto

Los Baños, Laguna – After almost four years of litigation, farmers and consumers can finally have peace of mind knowing that their eggplant, commonly known as talong, will now be safe from genetic modification. Yesterday, the Supreme Court has permanently stopped the field testing of Bt talong, an eggplant variety genetically engineered to produce its own toxin. Apart from permanently stopping the field testing of Bt talong, it also declared the Department of Agriculture’s administrative order No. 8-2002 null and void resulting to a halt on the application for field testing, contained use, propagation and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pending the promulgation of a new administrative order.

“We are overjoyed on the decision of the Supreme Court to stop the field testing of Bt talong. Farmers and consumers will now have peace of mind knowing that their talong will be free from genetic alteration. This is very good news to us” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG Chairperson and farmer-leader in the province of Negros Occidental. “We can now go on with our farming work, without fear that our precious vegetable will be tainted with toxins and unwanted effect from GMOs.” MASIPAG, a farmer-scientist network, is one of the petitioners that filed a Writ of Kalikasan against the field testing of Bt talong, saying that the said GM crop will affect the people’s right to a healthy and balanced ecology.

In its decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals Special 13th Division to stop the field testing of the said GM crop. In September 2013, the appellate court granted the Writ of Kalikasan and Continuing Mandamus against the field testing of Bt talong on the following 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; precautionary principles is applicable in the light of uncertainties and inadequacy/ineffectiveness of the current regulatory system; Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not conducted, and that Bt talong, with its social, economic and environmental impacts, should not be entrusted to scientists only but should involve all stakeholders.

DA AO 8 halted

The SC also ordered the temporary halt on the application for field testing, contained use, propagation and importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) saying that the DA administrative order lacked the minimum safety requirements under the National Biosafety Network (Executive Order 514).

“We laud the Supreme Court as it not only prevented the field testing of Bt talong, but it also answered our prayer to prevent the further entry and use of GMOs in our country” said Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of MASIPAG.

“There are about 70 types of GMOs that our country is importing and is penetrating our food systems, without our knowledge or consent. Add to these the numerous new GM crops that are being field tested. It is good that the court based its decision on the importance of transparency, informed consent and the principle of precaution on untested and unwanted technologies such as GMOs. We feel vindicated that after many years of lobbying and talking about the dangers of GMOs and the inadequacy of policies, finally our voices were heard” said Dr Medina.

The DA-AO 8, which was penned in 2002, enabled agrochemical giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer to flood the country with genetically modified crops such as GM corn. The DA-AO is also used by multinational companies and offices such as the Philrice, IRRI and universities such as UPLB in applying for contained use and field testing of GM crops such as Golden Rice, Bt cotton, GM corn, GM Papaya and many others. At present, there are about 800,000 hectares of GM corn planted in the country and imports tons of GM food such as soya, corn and canola which are used in daily food items such as soy sauce, cooking oil, flour and many others. Petitioners also pointed that the DA AO 8 only required posting of notices which equates to conducting public information and consultation whenever GM field trials are commenced in an area. Because of its pro-biotech policy, GMO lobbyists are promoting the Philippine biosafety policy as model in the ASEAN countries.

Keep vigilant

“We can rest for now, knowing about the favorable decision on Bt talong. However, we know for sure that agrochemical giants such as Monsanto will use everything in its power to push for its agenda” added Dr Medina. Last November 24, Monsanto’s senior regional expert for scientific affairs Dr Harvey Glink gave a speech in the House of Representatives where he sought for the support of lawmakers on the adoption and use of GMOs to address food insufficiency and low yields.

Monsanto, a US-based company is now the biggest agrochemical giant in the world controlling almost a quarter of the global proprietary seed market, including GMOs. This does not include sales on other products such as pesticide, including glyphosate which is considered by the WHO as a Category 2A carcinogen. This recent act of Monsanto is paving the way for ensuring unrestriced access to the country’s seed market, which in turn will churn more profit for the company, the group said. ###

PGS Pilipinas, Growing Strong

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The first-ever general assembly of PGS Pilipinas was successfully held in the city of Bacolod last November 28-29, 2015. PGS Pilipinas is a a group of farmer groups, organic producers, members of the academe and LGUs advocating for Participatory Guarantee System, a kind of certification system that is more affordable to the small-scale organic producers. MASIPAG leads and serves as the secretariat of PGS Pilipinas.

With the theme “PGS: securing market access of small organic farmers in the Philippines”, the general assembly aimed to further strengthen the alliance and inspire more organizations and local governments to take up organic agriculture and PGS.

“We are doing this assembly to consolidate ourselves and to make our voices much louder. We are here to tell the government that PGS is the way forward to make organic agriculture more viable, and encourage more small farmers to adopt organic agriculture,” said Ms Carmen Cabling, PGS Pilipinas Chairperson. To ensure consolidation and linkaging with local governments and other groups, a one-day conference was held before the general assembly. One of the objectives of the conference is to solicit more support in order for PGS to be recognized in the Philippines.

Andre Leu, the President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) Organics International, expressed his support for PGS and for the group in a letter to the conference. Mr. Leu stated the importance of mainstreaming PGS, as majority of the world’s farmers, over 90%, are smallholder family farms who cannot afford the cost of 3rd party certification to sell organic products on markets.

“PGS empowers farmers and consumers to make decisions about market prices and supply that allows farmers to make a fair living and consumers to pay for the real value. Farmers can make the appropriate decisions the about guarantee system and the market that empower them as price makers rather than price takers, ensuring that farmers and their communities can break the poverty cycle and have a fair level of prosperity,” Leu wrote.

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Ms. Armi Benedicto, Asst. Provincial Agriculturist of Negros Occidental, presents the logo of PGS Negros. PGS Negros was launched in November 25, just in time for the National Organic Agriculture Conference (NOAC).

Mr Ramon Marañon, small farmer representative to the National Organic Agriculture Board who is the policy making body of OA in the country, attended the conference and discussed updates and trends in organic agriculture policy. According to Mr. Maranon, PGS is now in the pipeline of priorities of NOAB and they will seriously discuss the call since they are the body that is responsible in the amendment of the IRR of the law.

Representatives from the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards of the Department of Agriculture, local government units and agencies, non-government organization, farmers and PGS advocates likewise participated in the conference.

The PGS Pilipinas General Assembly is part of MASIPAG’s Green Action Week activity under the theme “Organic Food and Farming for All.” The said activity was participated by representatives from the national and local government units and agencies, non-government organization, farmers and PGS advocates. ###

Farmer-scientist group in the Philippines slams Monsanto lobbying for GM adoption

Los Baños, Laguna – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG slammed agrochemical giant Monsanto for its dirty tactics by deceiving lawmakers to accept genetically modified (GM) crops, saying that the purpose of the talks is to educate Filipinos on the benefits of GMOs in achieving food security. Last November 24, Monsanto’s senior regional expert for scientific affairs Dr Harvey Glink gave a speech in the House of Representatives where he sought for the support of lawmakers on the adoption and use of GMOs to address food insufficiency and low yields.

Dr Chito Medina, national coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG countered these claims. “The Philippine reality is that more and more farmers are getting poor and sick because of GM crops, such as GM corn. GM corn is very expensive, and to avail of the very steep price, farmers are forced to borrow money from lenders and loan sharks to finance their farming.”

In a study made by MASIPAG, a farmer needs about Php 9,800.00 to purchase GM corn seeds to plant one hectare. Conventional hybrid corn varieties only costs about Php 4,500.00, thus agrochemical companies such as Monsanto earns at least Php 5,000.00 per hectare on seeds alone. In 2011, it is estimated that companies earned more than Php 3 billion in the sale of GM corn seeds in the Philippines. In the study, farmers are becoming more indebted because of the expensive inputs in GM farming coupled with high interests from financiers and loan sharks. Monsanto is no. 1 in biotech seed sales controlling 27% of GMO seed sales and no. 4 in agrochemical sales controlling 10% of global sales.

“It is appalling that Monsanto, one of the world’s worst human rights violator, is given a venue to speak inside the House of Representatives. The lawmakers should instead investigate Monsanto for its crimes against humanity. Monsanto is not here to do philanthropic work but to earn more profit from its harmful technologies” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG chairperson and farmer-leader based in the Visayas.

Apart from farmers becoming more indebted, GMOs impact the health and environment. In Capiz, hundreds of hectares of hills and mountains are now converted to GM corn plantations. Farmers can easily clear lands with the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup which Monsanto is also producing. Most GM corn in the Philippines is genetically modified to become herbicide tolerant, such as glyphosate. Glyphosate is considered a Category 2A Carcinogen of the IARC-WHO. Study estimates that more than 5 million liters of glyphosate was doused in GM corn farms in 2011 alone, contrary to the claims that pesticide use is declining due to GM adoption. Hills and mountains cleared with glyphosate are now almost devoid of topsoil due to soil erosion and becoming very acidic making such areas unproductive over time.

“Farmers also complain of sickness such as allergies during GM corn flowering, stomach pains when they consume GM corn and other health problems. Farm animals also get sick and die when they ingest GM corn and fodder“added Seguiro. Seguiro also said that GM corn are now contaminating traditional and native corn varieties thru cross pollination, rendering the country’s second staple crop tainted with GM traits. “ They call the contaminated corn varieties ‘sige-sige’ corn in Mindanao. Slowly, these unwanted, untested and dangerous technologies are creeping in our food systems without our knowledge and without our consent”.

Monsanto, a US-based company is now the biggest agrochemical giant in the world controlling almost a quarter of the global proprietary seed market. This does not include sales on other products such as pesticide. This recent act of Monsanto is paving a way for ensuring unrestriced access to the country’s seed market, which in turn will churn more profit for the company, the group said.

“If we are to feed the nation, and make agriculture sustainable, we should start revolutionizing our agricultural systems by practicing agroecology. The industrial, capital, chemical-intensive and profit-driven type of agriculture that Monsanto is peddling is no longer tenable. We should gear to a type of agriculture that could sustain, take care of the environment and respects the right of farmers to seeds and knowledge” said Dr Medina.

Dr Medina cited the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAAASTD) which studied the trend of agriculture in the world for the past 50 years. The study, which was funded by United Nations agencies and the World Bank, said that GMOs are unlikely to play a substantial role in addressing poor farmers’ needs. “Business as usual(chemical farming) is no longer an option, we should instead strengthen agroecological system of producing food if we are to survive for the next 50 years. GMOs are unsustainable, unreliable and harmful technology. We should stop Monsanto from its tracks from controlling our food systems” added Medina.

Movements around the globe against Monsanto are also escalating. On December 3, 2015, international organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association, IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regenration International, Millions Against Monsanto and dozens of other organizations announced that they will sue Monsanto for its crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide in The Hague, Netherlands on World Food Day next year. This was announced at a press conference during the COP21 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris. ###

Remembering Bhopal: Ban Glyphosate now!

Today, we are remembering the Bhopal Disaster, considered as the ‘world’s worst industrial disaster.’The Union Carbide tragic gas leak claimed around 3,000 lives and left 25,000 more dead in the aftermath in Bhopal, India. Union Carbide, a pesticide plant, is a subsidiary company of Dow Chemicals. More than 30 years after, victims are still calling for justice and compensation.

In commemoration of the disaster, MASIPAG is releasing an infograph of the chemical Glyphosate, the potent ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. Glyphosate, an herbicide made by agrobiotech giant Monsanto is being used on over 700,000 hectares of herbicide-resistant genetically modified corn in the Philippines. WHO recently categorized Glyphosate as a Group 2A carcinogen.

We do not want another Bhopal-like tragedy to strike our farmers and communities! We are calling on the government to immediately halt the use of Glyphosate in our farms and protect the health of the people and environment!

Click this link for a bigger version of the infograph.

 

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