Monthly Archives: July 2016

PGS in Lanao del Norte Launched

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PGS Lanao del Norte – Iligan was launched in July 5, 2016 in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte in conjunction with the Kapatagan Municipality’s 2nd Agri-Aqua and Livestock Fair. The PGS group also awarded the certificates to the first batch of farmers who passed the guarantee system’s inspection and evaluation process.

Courtesy call to Mayor Barry Baguio, Local Chief Executive of Municipality of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte.

Courtesy call to Mayor Barry Baguio, Local Chief Executive of Municipality of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte.

The municipality of Kapatagan’s former Mayor and now Vice-Mayor Benjie Baguio initiated the development of PGS in the municipality and later in the whole province, including Iligan City while the newly elected Mayor Barry Baguio promised to continue the legacy of the former Mayor in developing sustainable and organic agriculture in the municipality and of the province.

Also present in the event are the Governor, Vice-Governor and Congressman of the Province who vowed to support the initiatives of the farmers and expand PGS in many municipalities of the Province. Newly appointed DA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Ranibai Dilangalen also expressed her support to the farmers who are the backbone of agricultural development of the province.#

Corporate science subdues the poor

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein

IRRI palayasin

Early this July, a spate of news from pro-GMO camps (which includes IRRI and Mark Lynas) struck the headlines wherein they praised the report made by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine regarding safety of GM crops. According to the news, the elite panel concluded that no ‘substantiated’ evidence exists that genetically engineered crops have caused health problems in humans or damaged the environment. Alongside this is the letter by more than 100 Nobel laureates urging environmental group Greenpeace to cease and desist from its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and food improved through biotechnology in general.

It is as if the earth’s vanguards of ‘science’ has united to finally put an end to the debate on GM crops. As what Mark Lynas has said, the issue on GM crops are now been definitively put to bed.

But let us tell you our experience.

The Philippines is being hailed as the first country in Asia to have commercialized GM corn. To date, GM corn is being grown to more than 700 thousand hectares of agricultural land, more than one fourth of the total area devoted for corn. About 8 varieties of GM corn are approved for planting, which includes mainly herbicide tolerant and insect resistant varieties. Since 2003, the government has allowed the importation of more than 70 kinds of GM products for food, feed and processing. The country has also become the launching pad of IRRI’s Green Revolution, a strategy posed to curb hunger and poverty among rice growing nations in Asia. The Golden Rice Project is also housed in IRRI. Proponents have also hailed the Philipines as the country to emulate having one of the strictest biosafety regulation.

So how is the Philippines faring? We have been a net importer of rice for so many decades. The Green Revolution fostered by IRRI resulted to displacement of traditional and improved rice varieties, changed the culture of self-reliance and food security among farmers while chemical inputs poisoned the land, water and our bodies. Farmers planting GM corn have become more indebted due to high input costs coupled by low incomes. Traditional corn varieties, a staple of farming communities and indigenous groups, are now contaminated with GM corn traits. Every year, millions of liters of pesticide Glyphosate are being used and poured over hectares of GM corn farms all over the country exposing farmer communities to the carcinogen.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines, in its ruling against the field trials of Bt eggplant, said that the administrative order on GMOs failed in meeting the public participation requirement of the Cartagena Protocol and the country’s National Biosafety Framework, having all the badges of a ‘greenwash’: merely an exhibition of symbolic compliance to environmental and biosafety policy. Add to this the lack of independent health and environmental studies to ascertain safety of the GM product. Consultations to create a democratic, science-based and pro-farmer policy on GMOs was railroaded, as the country became hostage to of the import-dependent livestock industry rushing to secure imported GM soya. Proponents have, for years, been pushing for the commercialization of Golden Rice, amidst proven alternatives and interventions leading to a 22.8% decline of VAD cases from 38% in 1998 to only 15.2% cases in 2008.

Thus it should not be a surprise that farmers and consumers in the Philippines are clamoring against the continued promotion and introduction of GMOs.

It is quite ironic that the very same institutions and corporations that basically created the conditions which robbed the farmers of their primary role to produce food for the people, are now putting themselves in the position to impose solutions that will create more dependence, more hunger and poverty for the farmers. Farmers are starving and poor, not because of the lack of technologies to increase productivity, but because companies have so much control of the agriculture system that the farmers lost their ability to decide on how they will produce food. Corporate science is now being used to subdue the powerless and the disenfranchised.
While corporations are spending billions of dollars to develop new GM crops, farmers are slowly realizing their important taks to fulfill their role in securing food. They are now in the forefront of addressing issues on climate change, market-led and chemical-intensive agriculture, and neoliberal policies. Farmer-led initiatives such as breeding climate-resilient varieties, alternative marketing systems, community seed banking and diversification of food crops are far more sustainable, contributes to their empowerment, and addresses the social determinants of health.

It is no surprise that soon, IRRI and its partners in the life science industry will once again renew its push for the commercialization of Golden Rice. Which is why we need to continually engage and expose their distorted paradigm of addressing food security, in turn to also help the people decide to take the path to sustainability and food sovereignty.###

MASIPAG 9th GA: Moving Onward to Serve

Davao City – Inspired by the courage and determination of the small-scale farmers, especially the Lumads, the participants of the 9th MASIPAG General Assembly strengthened their resolve to push for a just society where farmers and indigenous peoples can genuinely exercise their rights to food, livelihood and self-determination.

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Virgie Nazareno, farmer-leader from Quezon, demonstrates to Bai Aida how to make crunchy chips from cassava.

Farmers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao gathered in the Tugbok District in Davao City for the General Assembly (GA) with the theme “Sulong MASIPAG! Sama-samang harapin ang pagbabago ng panahon sa pagkamit ng makatarungan at maunlad na lipunan” (“Onward MASIPAG! Collectively Confront the Challenges of Climate Change and Push for Justice and Genuine Development in Our Society”). Discussions on the important issues faced by small-scale farmers such as climate change and increased corporate control on agriculture were held, as well as workshops on how farmers can address these issues through sustainable farming practices and advocacies.

Various organizational matters were also settled during the GA, including the election of a new set of Board of Trustees (BOT).

Facing Climate Change

Prior to the GA proper, a conference was held at Ateneo De Davao University to discuss the various measures that small-scale farmers can undertake to build resilience against the effects of climate change. More than 200 farmers, members of the academe and development organizations who attended the said conference agreed that agroecological practices such as farmer –saved seeds, indigenous knowledge, bayanihan (communal work) and education are proven to be practical, low cost and sustainable in ensuring food amidst the changing climate.

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The Conference on Climate Change in Ateneo de Davao University was attended by around 200 farmers, members of the academe, development workers and members of the media.

“MASIPAG has been supporting and developing sustainable agriculture practices to help farmers cope with the changing climate,” said Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPG. “For 30 years, we have collected more than 1,000 traditional rice varieties, and a thousand more MASIPAG and farmer-bred varieties which are then selected or used as parent materials for breeding rice varieties that will suit their needs. Thru this practice of farmer-led breeding and selection, MASIPAG farmers has identified more than 70 types of climate change resilient varieties that can withstand drought, flooding and saltwater intrusion and pests.”

Apart from climate change resilient seeds that can lessen the impacts of climate change, MASIPAG farmers are also encouraging other farmers to diversify their crops and integrate the different farm components to make their farm sustainable and resilient to the changing climate.

Dr Medina added that “it is high time for farmers to veer away from chemical and capital-intensive agriculture. In our experience, farmers are more resilient from the effects of climate change when they shifted to agroecological practices. Thru the ‘no regrets adaptation’, farmers are ensured of food and income even if the weather is very unpredictable.”

The call to face climate change and prepare against its effects through farmer-led and farmer-centered agroecological solutions resonated through the whole GA.

Farmers challenged by climate change

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Carlito Seguiro, outgoing BOT Chairman shares his keynote address during the opening of the 9th General Assembly.

“Climate change is one of the hardest challenges that poor farmers like us are facing right now,” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG Chairman of the Board during his keynote speech. “We saw the effects of climate change-related calamities such as super typhoons which wiped out our resources and livelihoods, and caused deaths among thousands.”

“The recent drought spell that caused the failure of agricultural production in many areas was particularly fatal to the farmers of Kidapawan in North Cotabato,” Carlito added. “Farmers who were calling for the support and subsidies from the local government were met with violence during their picket rally and resulted to two deaths many injured, and dozens arrested.”

Carlito was referring to the 6000-strong protest in Kidapawan last April where drought-affected farmers trooped to the local government for support and release of subsidies. The province of North Cotabato has declared a state of calamity since early in 2016 due to the intense drought.

Carlito went on to call for a stronger unity against corporations and industries who are the worst polluters but are refusing accountability in cleaning up the environment or reducing carbon emissions.

Stronger organization achieving common goals

“Meanwhile, in 2015, organizational changes have also challenged MASIPAG,” said Carlito, referring to the dissociation of former staff and Regional Project Managament Team (RPMT) members from MASIPAG Mindanao. “As a huge, dynamic network, we have our share of healthy disagreements and differences of opinion. But always, we put our faith and trust on our common vision, mission, goals, objectives and principles in resolving these differences and maintaining a united and solid network that serves the interest of poor farmers and aim for genuine development.”

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Farmers share and exchange different rice and vegetables seeds.

A new team in Mindanao headed by the Regional Coordinator Leo XL Fuentes Jr. has been established and has since then focused on consolidating POs and NGOs, including indigenous peoples’ (IPs) groups. In particular, initiatives have been undertaken to consolidate IP organizations who fled their homes and farms due to increased militarization in the areas. Among these are the farmers and IPs from the TIKULPA (Tinunanon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa) PO in White Kulaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon who have long cultivated the fertile soils of Arakan Valley through sustainable means.

New set of BOT

During the organizational meeting , resolutions were also put forward to support ongoing campaigns against GMOs, mining, landgrabbing and landlessness, climate change and corporate control on agriculture. After a thorough and intense discussion on the organizational issue in Mindanao, a unity statement was also drafted, and signed on by the GA.

One of the highlights of the GA is the election of the new Board of Trustees. The new BOT members are: Pepito Babasa, Marcelino Dela Rosa, Tranquilino Pillado Jr., Elpidio Paglomutan and Jofrey Frinal from the farmers; Karen Faith Villaprudente and Casilda Galagala from the NGOs; and Dr. Jaime Cabarles Jr. and Prof. Marion Tan from the scientists.

A tribute was paid to the late MASIPAG leaders and members, including former BOT member Francis Morales. A seed exchange and a cultural night also took place during the GA.#

From the left: Karen Faith Villaprudente (NGO-OFFERS Panay), Elpidio Paglomutan (farmer-Negros Island), Tranquilino Pillado Jr. (farmer-Antique), Marcelino Dela Rosa (farmer-Nueva Ecija), Pepito Babasa (farmer-Camarines Sur), Dr. Jaime Cabarles Jr (scientist- Central Philippines University), Casilda Galagala (NGO-RECAP), and Prof. Marion Tan (scientist-UP Diliman). Not pictured: Jofrey Frinal (farmer-South Cotabato)