Category Archives: News & Updates

Regional Workshop on PAR and Food Sovereignty

Loikaw, Kayah State, Myanmar – Five countries, 11 organizations, 21 individuals. Despite the diversity, participants of the second Regional Learning and Exchange Platform workshop found unity and common grounds especially in the light of similar plights and conditions of the resource-poor farmers in their respective countries.

The Regional Learning and Exchange Platfrom for Facilitating Change Processes towards Food Sovereignty (RLEP) is a three-year series of workshops that “deals with acquiring or deepening concepts…of participatory methods for facilitation, analysis and dialogue, values and skills to support grassroots initiatives and movement building in the frame of food sovereignty.” Participants reflect on, interact, and share with their peers from different organizations and countries aiming to further develop their own respective practices and processes in attaining food sovereignty.

The recent RLEP workshop focused on “appreciating and enhancing indigenous knowledge and participatory processes for action and transformation, through the use of Participatory Action Research (PAR).”

Participants from Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam shared their experiences and insights on people-led development (PLD) for food sovereignty. They also visited the villages of War Thaw Khu and Kwaingan in Demoso Township where discussions on food security and food sovereignty were held. The community visits served to deepen the appreciation and inspire both the communities and the participants to intensify participatory processess to address the local realities on food security and food sovereignty.

Issues such as landgrabbing and land rights, and insights on community organizing were discussed during the peer learning sessions. That the countries face similar struggles made it apparent that regional unity and networking, which the RLEP is able to provide, is essential in addressing these issues and coming up with tangible, appropriate and community-led alternatives.

MASIPAG is among the participating organizations in the RLEP. The RLEP is supported by Misereor in coordination with Pesticides Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP).#

MASIPAG farmers shine bright in the 19th OWC

Greater Noida, India – Organic farming associations the world over joined the 19th IFOAM Organic World Congress (OWC), where significant policy issues as well as organizational matters were discussed. Ten MASIPAG farmers and staff actively participated in the OWC, as well as the various pre-conferences by different self-organized structures such as the General Assembly of the Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organizations (INOFO).

INOFO General Assembly

The Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organization(INOFO) is the infra-structure belonging specifically to organic farmers organizations all over the globe. INOFO was created to give farmers a louder voice in the global platform to influence decision making and policy change. MASIPAG has been a part of INOFO since 2014 as the Southeast Asia Convenor and Secretary and was again elected this year. Mrs. Virginia Nazareno, Masipag farmer from Quezon province was selected to become one of the conveners of INOFO for Southeast Asia. Mrs. Nazareno, or Nay Virgie as she is most fondly known,is a farmer-leader from Kiday Community Farmers Association (KCFA) in Gen. Nakar, Quezon. As convenor, MASIPAG will be playing a key role in strengthening partnership and communication among the organic farmers organizations in Southeast Asia.

19th OWC

From November 9-11, the Organic World Congress (OWC) was held at the Indian Exposition Mart. The colorful event commenced with Seeds Festival which featured a wide diversity of local seeds of rice, maize, wheat, millet, vegetables, cotton and many others. Six MASIPAG farmers shared their experiences and practices on organic and sustainable farming, which were widely lauded by the other participants in the congress. Weng Buena, PGS Coordinator of MASIPAG shared the Philippines’ experience in PGS and how various organizations and even local governments are working together to further develop PGS in the country.

IFOAM-Organics International General Assembly

The IFOAM GA serves to provide organizational updates on membership, policy discussion such as organic standards, and discussion on PGS regulations. Members, which include MASIPAG, are entitled to vote on new policies, resolutions, election of World Board members and other important matters.

Agro-ecology and Farmer-bred Paddy Workshop

After the IFOAM activities, MASIPAG travelled to Kolkata for a workshop organized by SWISSAID, SWISSAID-India at DRCSC, a local NGO. During the workshop, Nay Virgie, along with the MASIPAG staff, demonstrated how to breed rice among the participants which come from India, Tanzania, Myanmar and Switzerland. The two-day workshop was productive and resulted to possible partnership and collaboration among the partner organizations of SWISSAID.

Overall, the activities held in India have been productive and positive — MASIPAG farmers and their practices inspired other delegates from different places, and also served to boost the morale of the farmers. The positive response of other farmers and their organizations to MASIPAG reaffirms the soundness of farmer-led strategies and farmer empowerment in achieving food security and food sovereignty.

Check out more photos during the 19th OWC here and here.

Farmer groups hit PhilRice for renewed push to field and feed test Golden Rice

Science City of Muñoz – Farmer-scientist group Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura or MASIPAG hit PhilRice for its renewed push to open field test and feed test Golden Rice.

Despite years of vehement public opposition to the field and feed test of Golden Rice in the past decade – a genetically engineered rice promoted for commercialization in Asia, the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), PhilRice has filed renewed application this year toopen field test the genetically modified crop in the municipality of San Mateo in Isabela and Muñoz in Nueva Ecija. It also applied for Direct Use, wherein target populations will be fed with Golden Rice to ascertain if Golden Rice is effective in providing Vitamin A to humans. More than a hundred farmers is holding a mobilization today in front of PhilRice’s gate as the institute commemorates its 32nd anniversary.

Golden Rice, a transgenic rice containing beta carotene is being heralded as the solution to Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and PhilRice are pushing for the adoption of the said crop. However, the farmers believe the force behind this push is Golden Rice patent owner Syngenta and other giant biotech corporations including Monsanto. In 2013, more than 400 farmers, consumers and sectoral group under SIKWAL-GMO successfully uprooted the said transgenic crop in Camarines Sur, Bicol as a sign of protest.

“The Filipino farmers are strongly calling the DA-BPI to immediately deny PhilRice’s application to field test and feed test Golden Rice. Golden Rice would only further the corporations’ interest to control our agriculture thru the legitimization of seed patents. Also, Golden Rice is fraught with inherent problems. One of which is the low yield resulting to the disruption of the native structure of the rice plant” said Cristino Panerio , national coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG.

In recent study, scientists from India showed that the derived lines of Golden Rice produced phenotypic abnormality and poor yield performance making it unfit for commercial cultivation. Farmers are worried that the trait can transfer to other rice varieties or weedy relatives thru cross-contamination once the open field testing is approved. This will contaminate our indigenous and farmer-bred rice varieties and prove disastrous to the already volatile rice production in the country.

The group also cited that the application for Direct Use would subject unknowing communities to feeding studies in order to ascertain efficacy of Golden Rice. In a public dialogue on Golden Rice held by the National Anti-Poverty Commission or NAPC last August, medical doctors has warned that there are not enough data presented to establish safety of Golden Rice to human health thus warranting the discontinuation of human feed trials. During the dialogue, Dr Gene Nisperos of the Health Alliance for Democracy raised his concern as the target of Golden Rice are members of the vulnerable population such as preschool children and lactating mothers.

“Rice is a staple which you eat in the morning, lunch and evening, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The proponents are saying that Golden Rice is a food, yet they also state that it will provide 30-50% requirement of Vitamin A to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency. So the question is, is Golden Rice a food or a drug. There are two things, safety and efficacy – you do not talk about safety and efficacy in food, you only talk about these in terms of drugs. Yet Golden Rice is planned for widespread release” said Dr Nisperos during the dialogue.

The group also stated that the implementation of the Joint Department Circular (JDC) of 2016, the new policy that will oversee the regulation of GM crops, remains wanting. The said circular includes five departments such as the DOH, DOST, DA, DILG and the DENR who are tasked to oversee regulation, safety, precaution and public participation in GM crop applications. The group cited many gaps and holes in the implementation of the said policy citing lack of specific administrative orders of departments on how they will implement risk assessment and regulation of GM crops as required by the JDC. The group also cited the lack of public participation in each level of decision making.

“It is ironic that the JDC of 2016 is a product of the Supreme Court’s decision to ensure that the general public should always be included in every step of the decision making process in regulating GM crops. They were saying that they are holding public consultations but we have never received any invitation, while we have chapters in almost every province in the Philippines” said Joseph Canlas, Chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) during the NAPC dialogue. KMP is one of the convernors of the RESIST Agrochem TNCs, a broad alliance of farmers, consumers and sectoral groups against the control of huge corporations in agriculture.

The group is also questioning if the departments under the JDC have the expertise, capacity, technology and resources to ensure independence of research and putting premium on the safety of the consumers. Dr Chito Medina, MASIPAG partner scientist, said that Health Impact Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments as required under the JDC should be done by an independent group of experts, and the process cannot be confined from the data presented only by the proponents.

Renmin Vizconde, Advocacy Officer of the Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes added that “malnutrition and its resultant blindness exist because the basic rights of the farmers and people to land, livelihood are disrupted, due to government neglect and absence of social services, and not because the rice variety they consume does not have Vitamin A. Golden Rice is baseless, unscientific and nothing but a sensationalized product of giant agro-chem corporations to lure super-profits.”

“The GM Golden Rice program is ill-suited as Philippine society is primarily agrarian where the majority of the farmers are landless, thus, they need is a genuine land reform program or free distribution of land, that will fundamentally secure their food and nutrition needs,” said Vizconde.

“We must protect our rice. If Golden Rice will be approved, our future as farmers will be at risk. There won’t be anything left for us if our rice will be contaminated. This will also further legitimize the corporations’ greedy agenda to monopolize our seeds. Rice is life for us, we must fight for our rice” said Marcelino dela Rosa, MASIPAG farmer-breeder in the municipality of Cabanatuan.

MASIPAG farmers are also getting the support of organic practitioners and advocates attending the Organic World Congress in New Delhi, India from Nov 9-11, 2017. They hope that more and more countries and farmers around the globe would also speak up against the commercialization of Golden Rice and the corporations’ agenda on agriculture.###

Learning from the Seed Mothers of Amunda Village adivassis Gardua

Odisha, India – Members of the Stop Golden Rice Network held a learning exchange visit in India to learn about traditional rice conservation, indigenous knowledge systems and sustainable agricultural practices such as agro-ecology and organic agriculture. The participants included farmers and NGO staff from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.

One of the highlights of the activity was the field visit to Amunda Village among the Seed Mothers. The small village have traditionally practiced seed exchange, seed conservation and sustainable agriculture led mainly by women, known as seed mothers.

Seed mothers are designated by the tribe as the community’s seed keepers. They are depositories of rich agricultural biodiversity knowledge. They also facilitate village meetings to plan and ensure the success of annual seed exchanges within and among various villages.

One seed mother leads the seed and biodiversity conservation of 10 to 15 villages.

The small village of Amunda comprised of 53 households and has more than 30 rice varities, 50 kinds of millets/pulses, hundreds of vegetables and rootcrops which are grown thru out the year. The grids made by farmers is a biodiversity map representing crops harvested in a specific season. Seeds are also seen as sacred among the community. As one seed mother has said, ” seeds are the gifts of the Gods and not from you”.

This gathering is part of strengthening the ranks of small farmers and consumers in their fight to preserve and protect traditional varieties, to uphold farmers right to seeds and stop the introduction of genetically modified crops, specifically Golden Rice in their farms.

Click the link to our Facebook photo album to see more of the colorful and abundant seed collections of the Seed Mothers. #

MASIPAG Statement on World ‘Hunger’ Day 2017

As governments all over the world commemorate World Food Day, we the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikutlura (MASIPAG) is in solidarity with millions of Filipino farmers that are currently suffering from persistent hunger and malnutrition.

Amidst a world of plenty brought by increased food production, farmers and their families continue to suffer chronic hunger due to the commodified, market-driven and industrialized agriculture system. Based on recent data, about 11.3 million Filipinos are undernourished (FAO, The State of Food Security in the World, 2014). In the first quarter of 2016, 13.7 percent or 3.1 million Filipino families experienced hunger (SWS survey). Add to this the increasing rate of malnutrition among children aged 0-2 years, which is said to be the worst chronic malnutrition in the last 10 years according to the 2015 Updating of the Nutritional Status of Filipino Children study done by the FNRI.

In stark contrast, food insecurity is high in food producing areas, specifically among the farming sector. Farmers are obliged to sell most of their produce, which includes food supposedly allotted for the family’s consumption, in order to purchase costly seeds and chemicals being peddled by huge agrochemical companies. Farmer-saved seeds, which are supposedly free and sustainable, are seen as competition to privately-owned seeds. Private ownership of seeds is further strengthened by unfair trade agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which will force member countries to adopt UPOV of 1991, making seed-saving practices a criminal act. Add to this the cheap imported agricultural products being dumped in our country directly competing with our farmers’ produce.

While the long term solution to problems on malnutrition is increasing food diversity, sustainable food production and addressing landlessness and poverty, the government and its institution such as PhilRice instead pushes for the adoption of genetically modified crops such as Golden Rice as a band-aid solution to the prevailing problem Vitamin A deficiency. Golden Rice, a Syngenta-owned genetically modified rice touted as an answer to Vitamin A deficiency, is but a distraction to the farmers and people’s call for safe, sufficient and affordable food.

In spite of these challenges, small farmers are now slowly rediscovering their wealth and strength overshadowed by promises of good harvest and income being peddled by corporations. Thru sustainable food production and farmer empowerment, farmers are gaining more control over their resources, knowledge and production.

Safe, Sustainable and Affordable Food for All!

No to Corporate Control in Agriculture!
No to GMOs! No to Golden Rice!