Monthly Archives: November 2018

Unmasking two decades of lies about Golden Rice

Almost two decades have passed since the biotechnology industry launched its work to create Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop allegedly meant to combat malnutrition. Yet it still has not been commercialised anywhere in the world. A new report from GRAIN, MASIPAG and the Stop Golden Rice! Network sheds light on the flaws and failures of Golden Rice and unmask the question whether the world really needs Golden Rice or is it another seed industry’s public relations efforts in favour of Genetically-Modified (GM) crops.

Golden Rice continues to be hailed by its proponents as a panacea to cure Vitamin A deficiency. But evidence has shown that Golden Rice has much lower levels of beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, than sweet potatoes – an abundant and natural source of Vitamin A that can easily found in all the target countries for Golden Rice commercialisation. Further, more than half of the level of beta-carotene in Golden Rice is known to decline while in storage. Unsurprisingly, the recent safety approval of Golden Rice by the United States Food and Drugs Administration (US FDA) came with an explicit note saying that the level of beta-carotene in the rice is too low for it to be presented as particularly nutritious.

Meanwhile, target countries for the commercialisation of Golden Rice like the Philippines and Bangladesh have managed to lower their respective Vitamin A Deficiency levels over the years through dietary improvements and other methods which are more cost-effective and proven to be safe.

The pro-Golden Rice camp is seen as peddling a GM product that is not tested nor proven to be safe, and using it as a Trojan horse to open the door to other genetically-modified crops and livestock.

“Golden Rice is a techno-fix to malnutrition and a corporate ploy to control our agriculture,” says Cris Panerio of MASIPAG. “Asian people and the rest of the world do not need Golden Rice.” Indeed, the solution to hunger and malnutrition lies in comprehensive approaches that ensure people have access to diverse sources of nutrition. Securing small farmers’ control over resources such as seed, appropriate technologies, water and land is the real key to improving food production and eradicating hunger and malnutrition.

The report is available in


MASIPAG leaders pay tribute to Atty Ben Ramos

MASIPAG, along with small farmers, progressive organizations, relatives and friends paid tribute to our fallen lawyer of the people, Attt Ben Ramos, last night in his hometown in Sipalay City.

Around a thousand of small farmers remembered Atty Ben, his simple life and his immense contribution in uplifting farmers lives and genuine rural development.

Aside from being a pro bono lawyer for farmers engaged in land disputes, he is also a prolific development worker and sustainable agriculture advocate. His dedication, sacrifices will serve as an inspiration for farmers in achieving a just and humane society.

Long live Atty Ben Ramos! Justice to all victims of extra judicial killings!



“They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds. – Mexican proverb”

The Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) strongly condemns the murder of Atty Benjamin Ramos, peoples’ lawyer and advocate for farmers’ rights and farmer-led development. Atty Ben is one of the most recognizable leaders of MASIPAG (through his NGO Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group or PDG) having served as member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) from 1998-2016. As BOT member and legal consultant, he helped develop the network’s policies and ensure that MASIPAG’s farmer-led principles are upheld. Atty Ben staunchly promoted farmers’ rights to land, seeds and technology.

Atty Ben was gunned down by two unidentified men riding in tandem around 10pm in Kabankalan City on November 6. He has long been under military surveillance because of his involvement with land dispute cases, environmental and human rights issues. Last April, Atty Ben was among the mass leaders and development workers in Negros who were tagged as members or supporters of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

MASIPAG has consistently denounced this malicious red-tagging of Atty Ben, along with other farmers and leaders who are only fighting to reclaim what is theirs – land from the landlords, seeds from corporate control and technology from corporate-biased research institutions. For years, Atty Ben has helped mold the policies and principles of MASIPAG that put the interests of the poor farmers front and center of our sustainable agriculture programs. As one of the founding members of MASIPAG in the Visayas region, PDG as headed by Atty Ben, instituted and embodied the farmer-led development, a development paradigm that is now being recognized and echoed in many organizations in and outside of the country. Atty Ben believed in the agency and capacity of the farmers to uplift themselves from poverty and food insecurity and helped raise their consciousness to their plight and what they could do to free themselves from landlessness, poverty and dependence. Many of the farmers he helped were once daily-wage sugar plantation workers who after MASIPAG and PDG intervention have shifted to sustainable and organic agriculture.

Atty Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the Duterte administration. His cold-blooded murder is an attack to the peoples’ rights to development. Killing development workers and human rights defenders further weakens the nation’s thrust for genuine development, especially in the rural areas wherein services brought by development workers and organizations are most needed.

Atty Ben was a true servant of the masses. His death is a terrible loss to all the peasants and organizations that he has worked with, including MASIPAG farmers and NGOs from all over the country. He is gone, but we will continue to honor his legacy and draw strength and inspiration from his selfless service to our farmers.

We condemn the brutal killing of Atty Ben! We demand that justice be served for him and all the victims of extra-judicial killings! #

Farmers to Philrice: Serve the Filipino Farmers, Stop Promoting Golden Rice

November 7 –Farmers from various provinces of Luzon met the 33rd anniversary of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) with protest in Munoz, Nueva Ecija and a resounding call to halt the impending field trials of Golden Rice. The rice, genetically modified to express beta carotene to supposedly combat the worsening cases of Vitamin A Deficiency has been applied for field testing and direct use for food, feed and processing with the Philrice as the project leader. Claiming that they have complied with the regulatory requirements, including the approval from the Sanggunian Bayan, the field trials are expected to commence this November.

However, farmers and various consumers groups remain concerned that issues on health and environment safety have not been fully addressed, and are calling for moratorium on the impending field trials.

“We are calling on our local leaders in Munoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela to reconsider the Golden Rice field trials until the farmers and the people have the full assurance of its safety,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “Until now, there have been no reliable, independent safety studies about Golden Rice.”

Panerio added that the field testing that the Philrice will conduct will only look at the physical and agronomic traits of the GM plant. “Even with the existence of the regulatory policy that includes the Dept of Health, it remains to be seen if they indeed have the capacity to test for safety of Golden Rice to humans.”

Farmers from MASIPAG and other organizations including the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and DAGAMI will troop to the local government of Munoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela bearing petition letters calling for the field trial moratorium.

Rice in Crisis

“Our rice industry is in crisis because of the neoliberal policies that favors the interest of huge corporations,” said Joseph Canlas, secretary-general of AMGL. “Philrice is likewise guilty of putting the corporate interest first instead of coming up with a comprehensive solution to address rice productivity and safety.”

“It is quite alarming that our Filipino rice scientists are willing to expose rice, our staple food to a technology that has low potentials but high risk,” said Joel Bacdayan, MASIPAG farmer from Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija.

Recent studies have shown that traditional rice in India showed stunted growth when bred with Golden Rice, thus affecting their productivity and yields. Meanwhile, a study by Schaub, et al showed that the latest version of Golden Rice, the GR2E has very low beta carotene content which was likewise noted by the US Food and Drug Authority (US FDA).

Golden Rice, a tool for control

Why does Philrice still promote Golden Rice when it can cause stunted plant growth and has in fact low beta carotene content?

MASIPAG believes that Golden Rice is being heavily pushed despite the availability of local food that have higher beta carotene content because of its role to ease the public into accepting genetically modified food. “Once Golden Rice has been commercialized and the public have been conditioned into accepting and consuming it, then other GM foods are sure to follow,” said Panerio. Already, reports abound of other GM food in the pipeline such as Golden banana, Golden Potato, purple antioxidant rice and GM zinc and iron-fortified rice.

“If we allow Golden Rice in our fields and our tables, we might lose our traditional rice and local foods,” said Lorna Ganaba, a MASIPAG farmer from Kalinga. “The Golden Rice issue is not only about science or research as Philrice says, but it is an issue that can impact indigenous culture and identity.”

Experience from GM Corn

Isabela is among the provinces that widely adapted and propagated GM corn, the first GMO introduced and propagated in the country. However, experiences have shown that GM corn failed to improve the poor farmers’ lives. A 2012 research on the socio-economic impact of GM corn in the country shows that poor farmers are driven to indebtedness due to the high cost of GM corn production. Farmers incur as much as Php 19000 negative net income in a particularly bad season, which they will try to augment by borrowing more money from exploitative financers.

“Our bitter experience with GM corn has cautioned us against another genetically modified crop,” said Cita Managelod, a leader from DAGAMI. “What we need right now are concrete support and mechanisms to protect our farmers such as in times of disasters and crises.”

Farmers and consumers groups from Isabela also held a protest action in November 6 at the Philrice San Mateo station, one of the Golden Rice field trial sites.

“We have to learn from these bitter experiences that GMOs will not address poverty and hunger among farmers and consumers,” said Panerio. “Poverty and hunger are complex issues that need comprehensive solutions such as genuine agrarian reform, and farmer-centered technologies that will improve rice and food production so that our children and our people can have access to safe, nutritious and affordable diverse food.” #