Category Archives: News & Updates

World Day of Hunger Due to Militarization and Martial Law in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY— Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG Mindanao scored today’s ‘World Food Day’ celebration as millions are hungry around the globe, calls for sustainable use of resources in agriculture.

“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization celebrates October 16 as ‘World Food Day’, but it is best fitting to describe this day as World Foodless Day or World Day of Hunger. The Philippines especially in Mindanao is facing food crises, we witnessed surging prices of our country’s staple rice, Zamboanga City declared a state of calamity few months ago.” In a statement by Leo XL Fuentes, Regional Coordinator of MASIPAG Mindanao.

According to the 2018 data of globalhunger.index.org hunger in the Philippines was categorized as serious. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization in 2017 noted that 815 million people were hungry, 520 million of which comes from Asia. Aside from climate change, regions with conflict has higher prevalence of hunger. Out of the 815 million hungry people, 489 million are in conflict areas.

“Even here in Mindanao that is under Martial Law the continuing militarization in rural communities resulted to displacements, damages of farms, and killings of farmers and subsequently severe hunger. We have a problem in food yet the current government does not have a comprehensive plan to support our farmers, land-grabbing by aggression projects of plantations and big-businesses continue. 162 farmers were killed under the Duterte administration, majority of which is in Mindanao.” Fuentes added.

The farmer-scientist network explained that, hunger as a complex social problem can only be solve through a comprehensive program that is farmer and people-centered approach. For MASIPAG the corporate and business oriented agriculture since green revolution failed millions of Filipinos.

“We cannot solve the food problem if we kill and persecute our farmers, we need to advance their right to land, seeds and post-harvest facilities among other social services.”
MASIPAG Mindanao commemorated the World Day of Hunger with ‘Lumad Bakwets’ displaced indigenous people of Mindanao seeking sanctuary in UCCP Haran through a Salu-salo sa Kabus (Food-Sharing for the Poor). #

In the News: Agri goods import plan, a ‘band-aid’ solution – Masipag

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A network of farmers and scientists the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG in Mindanao) has expressed concern on the decision of the Department of Agriculture to import more agricultural products amid the rice crisis that the country is facing.

“The Department of Agriculture’s plan to import more rice is a band-aid solution and will not solve the roots of the rice-shortage that is the landlessness of the tillers, cartel-controlled rice trading, and weak post-harvest support and marketing, “Leo XL Fuentes MASIPAG Mindanao Regional Coordinator said.

It could be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte has issued Administrative Order 13 last September 21, which streamlines the administrative procedures on the importation of agricultural products. The same AO also removes the non-tariff barriers on the importation of rice as well.

AO 13 gives further authority to the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to adopt measures in a bid to tame the price spikes, and address the supply shortage of basic agricultural commodities.

But Fuentes warned that such importation plan would only worsen the country’s dependence on imports, a scheme which, he said, was implemented during the Aquino and Arroyo administrations.

“They already lifted the minimum access volume restriction, thus allowing more and more imported rice which in effect will further the dependence of our country on imports. While Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol’s administration does not veer away with that of his predecessors by allowing massive conversion of land by big -agribusiness plantations like palm-oil and banana,” he stressed.

To illustrate his point, Fuentes said the Palm-Oil industry road-map is set to convert one million hectares of land to oil-palm plantation, 98 percent of which will be in Mindanao.

“If this government is sincere in providing food security to the country, import dependence must stop,” Fuentes said, adding that rice importation is part of the imposition of the World Trade Organization on our agricultural economy.

According to Fuentes, the import plan is subservient to neo-liberalism to maintain a backward agriculture sector characterized by being export-oriented and import-dependent.

He added that the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) recognizes that agricultural trade incurred a deficit of USD 1.285 Billion in 2005 and USD 3.796 Billion in 2015. “The trend there is clear, that if we maintain such export-oriented and import-dependent economy, we are heading towards economic collapse.” Fuentes pointed out.

In 2009, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) suggested that local food production and small-scale agriculture will be the way to ensure food security for the future.

“If this government is sincere, it must have a comprehensive food security plan. It must immediately legislate genuine agrarian reform and distribute lands to the tillers, put a moratorium on land and crop conversion as well as plantation expansion, scrap the palm-oil industry road map, provide sufficient support and appropriate technologies both in production, post-harvest and even at the marketing level,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

Job Opportunity Area Coordinator for Central Luzon

FOR IMMEDIATE HIRING!

The MASIPAG regional unit in Luzon is looking for a dynamic, self-driven individual who will serve as the Area Coordinator for Central Luzon Cluster. He or she will spearhead the development of the MASIPAG network’s programs and is committed to make his/her contribution to development work.

Responsibilities and Obligations of the Area Coordinator are as follows:
•    Coordinate with farmer leaders and trainers in the conduct of various MASIPAG Sustainable Agriculture activities
•    Facilitate the conduct of training needs analysis, skills training among others to develop farmer trainers, leaders and farmer organizations
•    Coordinate Masipag related activities in her/his area of responsibilities (AOR)
•    Assist in the consolidation, organizational strengthening and expansion of People’s Organizations (PO) involved in the MASIPAG Network within the Area Cluster
•    Assist in the development of social infrastructure for the efficient/effective implementation of the Sustainable Agriculture (SA) program of Masipag members in her/his AOR
•    Facilitate marketing needs of PO’s thru the Masipag Farmers Guarantee System (MFGS)
•    Coordinate lobbying work with Local Government Units, development organizations, academe and farmers groups to further MASIPAG’s programs and advocacies
•    Provide technical assistance to other clusters when needed

Area of assignment for Central Luzon Cluster includes Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Zambales. Interested individuals may send their application to masluz@masipag.org addressed to

Mr Alfie Pulumbarit
Officer-in-Charge
MASIPAG Luzon

Deadline of application: Sept 28, 2018
Notice of interview: Oct 1, 2018
Day of interview: Oct 2, 2018

Farmers and consumers commemorate Golden Rice uprooting victory amid renewed push for field trials

August 8 – Five years ago today, more than 400 farmers, women, youth and consumers uprooted the secret Golden Rice field trials in Pili, Camarines Sur, decisively showing the rejection of the people against the genetically modified rice. The historic action has resulted to increased awareness and renewed debate globally and has driven the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to postpone the commercialization slated in 2016 supposedly due to the lower yields of the Golden Rice.

In 2017, proponents IRRI and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) have again filed for application for another round of field trials in in Munoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela. Additionally, they filed an application for direct use for food, feed and processing, which will pose health risks among the consumers as the Golden Rice can be made available to the public for consumption without the necessary safety tests conducted to determine its possible health effects.

“Then and now, the Golden Rice remains an unnecessary crop that will only render farmers and consumers vulnerable to possible health and economic risks,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “There is still a glaring lack of reliable and independent studies to determine the long-term effects of this genetically modified rice.”

Golden Rice was genetically engineered to express beta-carotene, a pre-cursor to Vitamin A, to supposedly combat Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) among children and mothers particularly in developing countries such as the Philippines. However, even the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has stated that “the level of beta-carotene in Golden Rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim” thus reflecting the failure and futility of Golden Rice to address malnutrition and Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).

Representatives from the church, academe, women and farmers groups gathered in St. Matthew’s Parish to discuss Golden Rice and its possible impacts to health and environment.

Golden Rice Fail

Aside from its low content, the beta-carotene in Golden Rice also shows degradation. A study in 2017 shows that Golden Rice retains 60% of its original beta-carotene levels after 3 weeks of storage and just 13% after 10 weeks. A researcher notes that after 75 days, one has to eat as much as 32 kgs of cooked Golden Rice just to get the same amount of beta-carotene in a single carrot.

Meanwhile, a study in India showed that when bred with the local Swarna variety, the Golden Rice shows phenotyphic abnormalities, stunted growth and low yield, virtually adulterating the metabolic and genetic traits of the variety. This shows the genetic instability of the GM rice which will definitely cause further problems at the farmers’ fields and in rice production in general.

Despite these issues, regulatory bodies in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have given their approval to grant safety stamps and trade liability clearance for Golden Rice. These rubber stamps of Golden Rice is now being used by the proponents to circumvent public opposition and hasten release of Golden Rice in target countries including conduct of clinical feeding trials among women and children in Philippines and Bangladesh.

“We deem these approvals as a result of bias to corporate lobbying, a travesty of justice and blatant violation of our sovereign rights,” said Panerio. “Golden Rice is bound to fail, and it does not make sense to hastily approve it for field trials or direct use when it inherent issues remain unresolved.”

Local to global action

 

The Golden Rice uprooting in Bicol has become a symbol of resistance against GMOs and corporate control in agriculture. Farmers and consumers groups continue to be inspired by the Filipino farmers not only in its decisive actions and campaigns, but also in the advocacy for better alternatives to food security.

Nueva Ecija is among the target field trial site of Golden Rice, particularly in Munoz where the Philrice headquarters is located.

“The solution to a complex problem such as hunger and malnutrition should likewise be comprehensive,” said Margie Lacanilao, a farmer from Nueva Ecija. “VAD is addressed by eating diverse and healthy food such as green and leafy vegetable and fruits which have higher beta-carotene than Golden Rice.”

“To be able to have diverse sources of food and nutrition, we need a farming system that encourages diversification and sustainability. We also need our land and our local seeds to ensure a healthier and more sustainable farming system” added Lacanilao.

Farmers and various sectors in Isabela, Nueva Ecija and Bicol have gathered together to commemorate the historic Golden Rice uprooting. In Isabela, a multi-sectoral forum will be conducted in San Mateo to appeal to the local government not to approve the field trial. In Nueva Ecija, an organic food festival will be held to showcase the diversity of Vitamin A-rich food that are better solutions to Golden Rice. Bicolano farmers will be holding a caravan to support the farmers in Isabela and Nueva Ecija and to drumbeat other issues affecting the agriculture sector in general.

Foods rich in Vitamin A were shared by the farmers, consumers and other sectors during a ‘boodle fight’ in front of the DA office.

Global partners in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Cambodia will also be conducting parallel activities in their respective countries to express their opposition against Golden Rice.

“We urge our regulators, as well as our local governments in San Mateo, Isabela and Munoz, Nueva Ecija to consider carefully all the issues before deciding on the field trials. We likewise demand the Bureau of Plant Industry to address all the issues first before proceeding to field testing Golden Rice,” said Panerio.

“We will continue to voice out our opposition against Golden Rice,” said Cita Managuelod of DAGAMI- Isabela. “And like the Bicolano farmers, we are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the Golden Rice field trials.”#

Rise for Rice: Discussing Organic Farming and the Pathway to Food Sovereignty

Farmer organization holds event to highlight the role of heirloom crops and organic farming in feeding the nation.

By Yvette Tan

Good Food Community, a community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative partnered with Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) to host an event highlighting the role of local crops in securing the country’s food sovereignty. In other words, they wanted to show that Filipino farmers can be capable of growing enough food to feed its entire population without need for importation.

“Masipag is a national network of farmers organizations, NGOs, and scientists promoting sustainable agriculture in the Philippines,” says MASIPAG National Coordinator Cris Panerio. “We are in rural development work. Our people’s organization conserves and improves traditional rice varieties, among other traditional varieties like corn, native chicken, native hogs.”

Called Rise for Rice, the second in the series included a small buffet of different local organic rice varieties grown by MASIPAG members around the Philippines. There were also dishes made from vegetables sourced from Good Food Community as well as short lectures on the benefits of growing and consuming organic produce. “I believe that we have enough food crops (to) ensure the food security and the food sovereignty of the nation,” Panerio says. “We are a mega-center of diversity, not only in wildlife but also in agricultural-biological diversity.”

Nanay Virgie’s Story

Some MASIPAG members were on hand to share their experiences on switching to organic farming. Nanay Virginia “Virgie” Nazareno from Calacar, Quezon has always practiced organic farming because that was what her grandfather taught them. “Nagtatanim kami ng palay, gulay, niyog, saging, any kind of fruit trees.”

A member since 2002, she has always believed in organic farming, even—to quote the many hispters out there—before it was cool. “Tayo naman ay pwedeng magtanim ng wala naman tayong ilalagay na kemikal at mayroon naman kaming alternative. Halimbawa, nagco-compost kami para may mailagay kaming organic sa aming palayan, sa aming gulay, sa aming crops.”

But the biggest proof of organic farming’s effectivity for her, as with many farmers, is yield. “Sa ngayon ay pumapantay na din yung kita sa chemical at sa organic. Sa ibang area na medyo matagal na, lumalampas pa ang ani kumpara mo doon sa chemical.”

There is evidence to support this. “In 2008, we conducted an impact study of our program and we found that in terms of yield, our (local organic) rice varieties are comparable with the conventional ones. There is no significant statistical difference,” Panerio says.

He adds, “But in terms of income, MASIPAG organic farmers were able to get more from their organic farms compared to their conventional counterparts. Their production cost is less. They produce their own seeds, they are able to produce their own organic fertilizer. They don’t need pesticides, and they practice diversified integrated farming system. They were not only able to feed their families, but create surpluses as well that they can sell to their neighbors.”

Aling Aileen’s Story

Same with Aileen Bawet from Apayao Province. “Ang sinasaka namin, mayroon sa bukid, mga palay sa upland tsaka may prutas—rambutan, kape, at lansones, saging.”

A member since 2008, she has experienced firsthand the difference between organic and inorganic farming. “Ang malaking diperensya sa paglipat sa organic, hindi ka kinakapitan ng sakit. Kasi pag nasa chemical ka, hindi ligtas ang pagkain mo. Hindi mo pwedeng kainin ang pagkain na nakukuha mo. Sa organic, kahit sabihin nila na mabusisi sa paggawa sa pataba, mas ligtas ka naman at tsaka pareho ang ani.”

Apparently, they didn’t use to eat the cash crops they planted. Not anymore. “Pag gusto mo kumuha ng gulay at organic ka naman, ligtas po. Kahit hindi mo na hugasan, punta ka lang sa garden kasi may backyard garden ka rin. Tapos yung pagkain mo, bigas na galing sa sakahan mo. Di kami gumagamit ng pahalo-halo na vetsin, natural lang talaga.”

Solving the Issue of Food Security

Organic farming is just part of the equation. MASIPAG also encourages local marketing and processing to offer farmers more opportunity for income. Products are sold in nearby communities. In short, they practice locavore, slow food, farm to table dining, but without the fancy names. “In MASIPAG, when we say food security, it doesn’t only mean abundance,” Panerio says. “It means sapat, ligtas, at samu’t-sari. Samu’t -sari means diverse food because you cannot only be sufficient in rice. You have to eat rice with diverse agricultural products—vegetables, meat products, eggs—products that can be provided by farmers, actually.”

Adequate, safe, and diverse. Sounds like the recipe to a food-secure nation.#

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