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. ###