Beware of the GMO trap! Golden Rice release in Bangladesh a marketing tool for GMOs

Press Release

 


February 13 – The impending release of Golden Rice in Bangladesh will signal the surge of more genetically modified food threatening local and traditional agriculture systems, asserted Stop Golden Rice Network (SGRN), an Asia wide farmers’, consumers’ and activists network asserted.

According to SGRN, a network of more than 30 organizations in South and Southeast Asia, the genetically modified Golden Rice will not address the issue of Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) rather create more problems for the poor. The fundamental, underlying cause of these deficiencies is undiversified, low quality diet that tangled with unavailability and inaccessibility of diversified food especially among low income family that cannot be fix with techno-fixes like Golden Rice.

“Proponents are using Golden Rice not as solution to micronutrient deficiency, but as a marketing tool for other GMOs that will only benefit the agrochemical companies that develop them,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG and lead convenor of SGRN. “Promoted as a ‘humanitarian’ project, Golden Rice will try to condition the acceptance of the people to unsafe and unnecessary crops.”

Despite having a near-insignificant amount of beta-carotene, Golden Rice is heralded as the solution to VAD prevalent among children and women in developing countries such as Bangladesh and the Philippines. In its 2018 approval, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) concluded that “the level of beta-carotene in Golden Rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim.” Sweet potato that can even be grown in non-arable highlands of Bangladesh has almost 50 times higher beta-carotene level compared to Golden Rice.

“The Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh cites the safety approvals of Golden Rice from US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and expect people to accept Golden Rice based from that merit,” said Shibli Anowar of the Labour Resource Center (LRC) Bangladesh. “Yet they ignore this glaring admission of the potential failure of Golden Rice and knowingly put at stake the health and the lives of our children and mothers.”

LRC, along with Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh Bhumihin Samity, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha and Bangladesh Adivasi Samity are holding a human chain and demonstration today at the National Press Club in Dhaka to express their apprehensions with the planned release of Golden Rice.

“There are plenty of vegetables and fruits in our country which are rich in Vitamin A, especially yellow and green vegetables and fruits,” added Anowar. “There is no need for Golden Rice.”

Golden Rice is also slated to be field-tested in the Philippines, while recent reports indicate that it will be widely propagated in Bangladesh soon. However, concerns remain on the lack of credible and independent safety studies, transparency and public participation. Regulatory processes are flawed and appear to lean on accommodating and facilitating the approvals of Golden Rice rather than serving to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.

A strategy to introduce more GMOs

A 2018 CGIAR document shows the various crops that have been biofortified to express vitamins and nutrients and the target countries where it will be released. These include Golden Rice which is expected to be commercialized this 2019 in Bangladesh.  And following in the pipeline high-zinc rice are planned to be release in 2020 along with few other biofortified crops such as vitamin A sweet potato, zinc wheat and iron-rich lentils.

“Ultimately, the CGIAR aims for releasing its 3-in-1 transgenic rice that is supposedly high in Vitamin A, iron and zinc,” said Kartini Samon, Researcher from GRAIN. “This could further push for public acceptance to genetically modified crops and erode our food diversity and our local and traditional seeds and increase corporate control to our agriculture system.”

“It is a business strategy which will wipe out the farmers’ seeds and be replaced with commercial ones that are still untested and have the potential to produce long-term problems in agriculture,” said Panerio. “The Golden Rice Trojan Horse must be stopped at all costs.”

“Farmers’ seeds, land and rights are being snatched away because multinational companies want farmers to be dependent on them for seeds,” said Anowar. “As a result, the process of preserving and producing the own seeds of the farmers will be disrupted. Farmers will lose their sovereignty over traditional seeds.”

“The release of Golden Rice and other GMO crops in a country rich in fertile and biodiversity like Bangladesh will bring nothing but destruction of farmers and agriculture.”

The Stop Golden Rice Network stresses that Golden Rice is a simplistic solution to the complex problem of hunger and malnutrition. “Farmers from the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and other rice-growing countries are in solidarity with the Bangladesh farmers on rejecting the commercialization plan of Golden Rice. Poverty and genuine development must be addressed to ensure that the people have access to diversified, safe and healthy food, and sustainable livelihood. We must resist Golden Rice together as a global community and assert our food sovereignty.” #

Reference:

Shibli Anowar
Labour Resource Center
Bangladesh
labourrce@gmail.com

Cris Panerio
Lead Convenor, Stop Golden Rice Network
Philippines
cpanerio@masipag.org, stopgrnetwork@gmail.com

Goodbye, Tay Ponce

The MASIPAG family bids goodbye to Ponciano “Tay Ponce” Adornado, a farmer-leader and organic agriculture practitioner in Infanta, Quezon. He passed away last January 27, 2019 due to natural causes.

Tay Ponce was among the most prolific farmers in Luzon province, with his admirable practice in diversified farming. He also served as leader in his peoples’ organization, UFBA (Upland Farmers Bayanihan Association). In 2017, Tay Ponce was among those who represented MASIPAG in IFOAM Organic World Congress held in New Delhi, India where he shared his experience in MASIPAG farming.

We lost a great farmer and a great leader. We will miss you Tay Ponce! #

Holiday Greetings from MASIPAG!

In 2018, farmers faced tremendous challenges to food security and food sovereignty, including losing Atty Ben Ramos, a staunch advocate of farmers’ rights to land, seeds and technology. Rice, central to our culture and livelihood has been marred with threats from worsened agricultural liberalization and potentially harmful technology such as Golden Rice.

But we march on! In 2018 we gained the significant support from consumers’ groups who join the farmers in their call for safe food and healthy environment. Our collective voices become louder as we call for safe, sufficient and accessible food for all!

We look forward to 2019 with hope and renewed vigor! Happy holidays to everyone!

#DefendOurRice #FightForOurRights
#AssertFarmersRights #StopGoldenRice
#JusticeForAttyBenRamos #Light4Ramos

MASIPAG launches online petition sign on against Golden Rice

With the Golden Rice field trials approved in the municipalities of Munoz in Nueva Ecija and San Mateo in Isabela, the livelihood and health of farmers and consumers all around the Philippines stand to be threatened by this unnecessary genetically modified crop. Apart from the Philippines, Golden Rice will also reportedly be tested in Bangladesh and Indonesia. Hence, it is essential that people not only from the Philippines but all over the globe show our unity and solidarity against the potentially harmful GM rice!

MASIPAG and the regional network Stop Golden Rice! Network has launched an online petition against Golden Rice. The petition aims to collect as many signatures as we can to show our opposition and rejection of Golden Rice because we do not need it to address Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD). What we need is a comprehensive and holistic solution that will ensure that our rights for safe, sufficient and affordable food will be upheld.

Click the link to sign up, and please share!

 

 

Position Paper Supporting the Proposed Human Rights Defenders Protection Act of 2018

This Position Paper was submitted to the Committee on Human Rights at the House of Representatives during the Committee Hearing on December 4, 2018 in support of the Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Bill authored by Reps. Zarate and Lagman, with Atty. Kit Belmonte as head of the Technical Working Group. The Committee approved the bill, dubbed as a ‘breakthrough’ in human rights legislation. According to Chairperson Chito Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights, the “proposed law is the first of its kind not only in the Philippines, but in [the] Asia Pacific region.”

MASIPAG is a network of farmers’, scientists and non-government organizations (NGOs) pushing for food security and farmer empowerment through sustainable agriculture and upholding farmers’ rights to land, seeds and technology. Since the mid-1980s, we have been working towards the development of the communities and uplifting the lives of the small-scale, resource-poor farmers through extensive orientations and trainings on technical practices on sustainable agriculture, as well as information-dissemination and awareness-raising on the various issues that affect them. Staff and farmer-trainors often traverse remote areas to reach the farmers and organizations that need the most help, and these often put them in precarious situations exacerbated by the increasing militarization in these critical areas.

Atty Ben Ramos, the 34th lawyer and human rights defender killed under the Duterte administration, was valued member of the MASIPAG network through his NGO, Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group or PDG. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1998-2016 where 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.

MASIPAG staff, farmer-leaders and members of the network who are promoting farmers’ rights are also not exempt from harassment and vilification. Two of our number in Northern Luzon has been maliciously tagged back in September and as such, they are now open targets of intimidation and possible assassination under the Duterte’s militarist regime.

The right to development is a vital human right. Articles 1 and 2 of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development states that

“The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized. The human right to development also implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, which includes, subject to the relevant provisions of both International Covenants on Human Rights, the exercise of their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources.”

The harassment, vilification and worse, killings of human rights defenders and development workers are affront to the people’s right to development. These abhorrent practices usually done by state actors who should be protecting the peoples’ rights weaken the nation’s thrust for genuine development, especially in the rural areas whose services brought by development workers and their organizations are most needed. It is very unfortunate that these acts are being made at a time when the country is facing problems on rice shortages and food insecurity.

In this light, MASIPAG fully supports the passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act. We call on our honourable representatives to heed the call of the people and uphold the people’s right to development, and to protect the rights of human rights defenders and development workers against harassment, vilification and killings.

Lastly, we call for justice for Atty Ben Ramos and all the victims of extra-judicial killings. #