ASIAN FARMERS DECRY REVIVAL OF GOLDEN RICE FIELD TRIALS

AGROCHEM TNCs GUILTY OF ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION ON EARTH DAY

 

Quezon City, Philippines – Amidst the celebration of Earth Day, farmers and civil societies coming from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as regional organizations such as the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, Asian Peasants Coalition and GRAIN, called for the utmost protection and preservation of the environment by rejecting destructive and corporate dominated technologies such as Golden rice and GM crops that are presently threatening the lives and livelihood of Asian farmers.

Applications for the field testing and direct use of Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop touted as the solution to Vitamin A deficiency, is presently filed and awaiting approval from the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry in the Philippines.

Asian peoples’ organizations coming from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines express deep concern regarding the imminent commercialization of the Golden Rice and other GM crops and its effect to their country’s food security, farmers’ livelihood and environmental health.

Golden Rice may affect Philippine rice industry

A recent study made by scientist in India showed that the derived lines of Golden Rice produced phenotypic abnormality and poor agronomic performance making it unfit for commercial cultivation.

Mr Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG said that the study correlates on the pronouncements by IRRI regarding the status of Golden Rice on March 2014. “IRRI stated in its website last 2014 that average yield was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers. It is highly likely that this inherent defect associated with the modification of the rice plant has disrupted the native structure of the rice plant making it perform less. This new information about the unintended effects of genetic modification was not detected in previous investigations.”

“The worst thing that could possibly happen is that the trait can transfer to other rice varieties or weedy relatives thru cross-contamination once the field testing is approved. This will prove disastrous to our already volatile rice production. The uprooting of the Golden Rice field trial by more than 400 farmers and sectoral groups last 2013 proved to be just, given the dangerous nature of the said product” said Panerio.

This has prompted farmers groups in Asia to call for the immediate halt of the said project, stating that the said GM crop would adversely affect the staple food crop of billions of people across Asia. Golden Rice patents are owned by Swiss Agrochem Syngenta, which recently merged with ChemChina a giant Agrochem corporation based in China.

Corporate Greed behind GM crops

Apart from Golden Rice, Asia is a huge market for the bioscience industry wherein a plethora of GM crops are being introduced or are in the process of commercialization. These GM crops have wreaked havoc among farmers wherein it brought more debts, genetic erosion, soil degradation and even suicides.

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi of the Pesticide Action Network India said that Bt cotton proved to be a failure in India. “Pest resistance has increased in the past decades coupled with the increase in cost of Bt cotton production. We have also observed lots of non-germinating Bt cotton seeds causing losses to farmer investments. But farmers are left with no compensation from private seed companies. These factors have led to Indian farmers taking their lives because Bt cotton failed to uplift the livelihood of the farmers.” Dr Reddy also pointed out that most biosafety protocols currently in place are under-developed and lax, even while GM proponents gloss over it. Contamination of traditional crops and food systems by under-quality GM seeds are leading to loss of genetic purity, environmental problems and health concerns.

In Vietnam, Agrochem giants Monsanto and Syngenta are enjoying gains from the country’s recent adoption of GM corn. Ms Thi Tran Lanh, Executive Director of Community Entrepreneur Development Institute (CENDI) said that GM corn are being grown in two provinces in Vietnam, with 21 more provinces doing pilot testing of the said GM crop. “It is estimated that about 1.1M hectares were planted with GM corn last 2016 in Vietnam and the forecast for this year is that Vietnam would be planting around 1.3M hectares of GM corn. It is estimated that approximately 30-50% of Vietnams’ agricultural land will be for GM crops in 2020, which is quite alarming. We must recall that Monsanto, the leading producer of GM crops, is also behind the production of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, the consequences of which has affected many Vietnamese generations so far.”

Yesterday, five judges of the International Tribunal against Monsanto stated in their advisory opinion that the corporation “has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment, the right to food, and the right to health” citing its widespread dissemination of dangerous agrochemicals in industrial agriculture, the introduction and release of GM crops, and introduction of persistent organic pollutants such as PCB in the environment.

Indonesian farmers group Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) said that the extraction of profit is what drives these corporations to exploit farmers and destroy the environment. AGRA coordinator Mr Harry Sandy Ame said that the public-private partnership program Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture or PISAgro only led to the increase in corporate control of the Indonesia’s agriculture. “PISAgro has facilitated the corporate take-over of our agriculture, wherein corporations has divided and assigned among themselves ten high value commodities to ensure steady supply of raw products to their industry. With contract farming model of implementation, this scheme has great potential in introducing new patented seeds such as GMOs in Indonesia.” AGRA is a member of the Asian Peasants Coalition who focuses on land rights and genuine agrarian reform.

GRAIN researcher Ms Kartini Samon said that GM crops, and the enforcement of patent rights, leads to the criminalization of farmers’ culture of saving, sharing and improving seeds. “Corporations are also behind the lobbying of stricter patent enforcement in bilateral and multi-lateral free trade agreements such as RCEP, ASEAN and TPPA to ensure profit. Countries that will not adhere to these agreements are being penalized by corporations. Thus seed sharing, saving and improvement, a thousand-old tradition of farmers will be deemed illegal by these corporations.”

“When governments fail to make these agri-corporations accountable for their crimes, people’s movement proves to be the most important factor to effect change in agriculture policies. It is high time for farmers movements to strengthen and globalize resistance against the increasing corporate control in agriculture and fight for food sovereignty. We must fight the introduction of Golden Rice and other GM crops” added Panerio.

Formed in 2014 during the Asian Conference against Golden Rice, the Stop Golden Rice! Network aims to serve primarily as a platform to exchange information, support, monitor and coordinate initiatives of member organizations on the campaign against the introduction, field testing and commercialization of Golden Rice. Apart from campaigns, this network also promotes alternative farmer-led agriculture, such as sustainable and organic agriculture, seed conservation among others. #

STOP GOLDEN RICE! Network Convenors’ Group
• Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union, India
• Pesticide Action Network India
• ORRISSA, India
• Community Entrepreneur Development Institute, Vietnam
• Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, Vietnam
• Serikat Perempuan Indonesia, Indonesia
• Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria, Indonesia
• Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand
• Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura, Philippines
• Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Philippines
• RESIST Agrochem TNCs, Philippines
• Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes, Philippines
• Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Philippines
• GRAIN
• Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific
• Asian Peasants Coalition

Farmers decry DA’s Masagana 6000 program

 

FARMERS from Bulacan, Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Southern Mindanao held a protest rally at the gates of the Department of Agriculture to denounce the prescriptive programs pushed by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

Around 200 protesters denounced Piñol’s programs such as the Masagana 6000 and the commercialization of genetically-modified (GM) crops.

The farmers also gathered in commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the International Rice Research Institute, the supposed leading public research agency in rice production, based in Los Baños, Laguna.

“From Masagana 99 and high-yielding varieties in the 1960s, to Masagana 6000 and Golden Rice today, it seems nothing has changed,” said Antonio Flores, a farmer from Mindanao and secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

“Both programs and technologies are prescribed to supposedly improve farmers’ production, but in reality, they merely serve to bolster corporate control in agriculture and genetic erosion,” Flores said.

The DA has announced its intended program Masagana 6000 which it said will focus on increasing rice yields to 6000 kilos per hectare through the use of hybrid rice.

The program also supposedly aims to address the improvement of seed quality, conversion of farmers from traditional farming to high-yielding hybrid rice seeds, lack of irrigation, and lack of fertilizers.

Loan programs will also be promoted so that farmers can have the financing to buy off external inputs supplied by huge agrochemical corporations.

“This is reminiscent of the Masagana 99 program instituted in the 1960s,” said Cris Panerio, national coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmer and Scientist Partnership for Development).

“The program, under the Green Revolution made use of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) developed by IRRI, and introduced a package of technology with seeds, chemical inputs and loans,” said Panerio.

“History, however, have shown that any benefits from the program were short-term, and that the MASAGANA 99, the HYVs and IRRI all have failed their promises of better production,” said Virginia Nazareno, a farmer from Infanta, Quezon.

“The seeds and the fertilizers are too expensive for poor farmers like us, that we become buried in too much debt while our yields began to decline because of the failure of the HYVs,” said Nazareno.

“Monocropping of the HYVs exposed the rice plants to various harmful pests while the excessive use of chemical fertilizers have stripped off the soils of its nutrients essential to plant growth,” added Panerio.

“The numerous traditional rice varieties that farmers have cultivated for generations were also lost, because IRRI and the government then only prescribed the use of a few IRRI rice varieties,” said Panerio.

Aside from Masagana 6000, the production and commercialization of Golden Rice is also being revived.

The genetically modified rice was developed by IRRI to supposedly address Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) in poor and developing countries, including the Philippines. IRRI, along with DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) conducted five multi-location field trials back in 2011 in preparation for its commercialization in 2014.

In 2013, more than 400 farmers uprooted the Golden Rice field trials in Pili, Camarines Sur as the calls to ascertain safety to peoples’ health and the environment remained unheeded by IRRI.

“The farmers’ uprooting and continued resistance is justified, especially now in the light of new findings on Golden Rice which shows the weakness of the technology, the brunt of which will be shouldered by the farmers,” said Sharl Lopez, Executive Director of Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP).

“Recent studies found out that the Golden Rice have unintended effects when the gene constructs affected the plant’s own genes which now affects the plant’s growth,” Lopez said.

Lopez is referring to the study released by Test Biotech which states that the samples of Golden Rice were found to have lower yields due to the ‘substantial reduction’ of chlorophyll in the rice plants. This increases the contamination threats to other rice varieties and might have other unintended environmental effects.

“IRRI’s rice science and technology program has only contributed in aggravating the state of food insecurity and agricultural underdevelopment in the Philippines and other Third World countries,” said Finsa Cosico, secretary-general of AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People).

“IRRI has become an active agent in reconfiguring world rice production consistently in accordance with the predatory profit motives of multinational corporations and the general political and economic imperatives of imperialist powers,” Cosico added.

 

“Small-scale farmers have developed initiatives and alternatives that embody a farmer-led and farmer-centered agricultural system that not only ensures food security, but also resists the control of agrochemical corporations,” said Nazareno.

“Masipag farmers for instance, have developed, improved and shared traditional and farmers’ rice varieties which are better suited to the farmers’ needs and farm conditions. The practice of diversified farming and local innovations save the farmers from buying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”

Flores added that, “prior to IRRI, farmers were growing more than 100,000 varieties of rice. Unfortunately, IRRIs technologies have disregarded the local wisdom, traditional knowledge and innovation of rice farmers accumulated over centuries. IRRI’s technologies and DA’s programs are doomed to fail because they are designed for profits and does not address the root of the farmers’ problems, and that is landlessness.”

“We must push for genuine agrarian reform where farmers will have control over the land, and other necessary resources for food production,” Flores added.

“IRRI’s Green and Gene Revolution failed because they do not serve the interests of the farmers; rather it served to perpetuate the systemic exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses,” said Flores.

“What we need is a true social revolution like the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, which served to emancipate the workers and peasants that also proved to the world the possibility of socialist development in agriculture, industry and other human spheres,” Flores said.

Flores said the mass action in front of DA will be followed by a public forum on the impacts of monopoly capitalists to the agriculture sector titled “Going Against the Grain: Resisting the Neoliberal Attacks on Agriculture and the Way Forward to a Food-Secure Future.”

KMP said the forum will also highlight how the peasant sector, through decades of monopoly capitalist onslaught and feudal and semifeudal exploitation, effectively harnesses its collective and militant strength in asserting its democratic rights and in struggling for genuine land reform and national industrialization.

The forum will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the SOLAIR Auditorium in UP Diliman, Quezon City.#

 

Source

Elusive Justice for Kidapawan Massacre victims, Disastrous Agriculture Continues

KIDAPAWAN CITY—A year after the infamous Kidapawan Massacre justice remains elusive for the victims despite of senate hearings and other investigations. In April 1, 2016, more than 5, 000 farmers that experienced severe hunger due to El Nino phenomenon asserted their right to food by demanding rice subsidies from the local and national government agencies. The Massacre claimed the life of Darwin Sulang, injuring dozens and detained hundreds of farmers in North Cotabato.

“The people’s right to food is one of our inalienable right, and in times of calamities such as El Nino it is the state’s role to provide immediate relief yet the local government of North Cotabato failed to provide. Worse the legitimate demand for food was met by state brutality by Kidapawan police and justice for those accountable were not yet served.” Farmer-Scientist group MASIPAG said in a statement in commemoration of the Kidapawan Massacre.

According to Leo XL Fuentes MASIPAG Mindanao’s Regional Coordinator, “El Nino is a natural phenomenon that occur between two to seven years, the 2016 El Nino was predicted as early as 2014. But the agriculture programs of the past administration apparently failed to address this. If we are going to look closely, Kidapawan and North Cotabato farmers are victims of mono-cropping of big rubber and banana plantations. Mono-cropping exposes the soil surface allowing faster transpiration rate and reducing moisture, in the context of rubber plantations the rubber tappers suffered most since there is a significant reduction of moisture there is a dramatic decrease in sap supply of rubber trees.”

“Now, that being the case when rubber trees are not productive during drought season, this will translate to hunger for those farmers that depend on tapping rubbers. One of the saddest reality in mono-cropping. It is the role of the state to interfere amidst these disasters.” Fuentes added.

The local and national agencies failed to release the 15,000 sacks of rice demanded by the farmers and keep on insinuating and maligning the people’s legitimate demand for food. The local government of North Cotabato were hell-bent in denying despite of the glaring reality of hunger among the farmers.

“Justice was still elusive for the Kidapawan Massacre victims, and the greatest injustice being done to our farmers is the continuation of failed and disastrous agricultural system of mono-cropping, plantation expansions that is subservient to the export-oriented and import-dependent agricultural economy. The promise of change of the current administration will remain to be a mere lip-service if we will not depart to these market-oriented agricultural system of big corporations. It is high time now as we call for justice to struggle even harder towards food, land and sustainable development.” Fuentes ended. ###

Farmer-scientist group calls for the protection of farming communities from clashes, hopes that the peace process continues

Press Release

Los Baños, Laguna – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura) calls for the protection and respect of human rights amidst the raging war between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after the termination of the unilateral ceasefire of both camps. Presently, government forces are now pounding on areas in Mindanao and Luzon believed to be areas where the NPAs operate after President Rodrigo Duterte announced to the AFP to intensify operations against the longest-running communist revolution in the world.

In a statement addressed to the AFP, President Duterte ordered the military to ‘go ahead, flatten hills’ prompting government forces to use fighter jets and rockets in pursuit of the armed rebels. Reports state that several bombs are dropped in province of Compostela Valley and Abra, where unfortunately is also home for hundreds of farming families and indigenous peoples. Communities are fleeing their homes for fear of their lives, classes are suspended and some seeking medical attention. Documentation coming from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) state that one farmer gets killed every three days due to heightened military campaigns.

“It is us who suffer the most during these intensified military operations. Bombs do not discriminate rebels from civilians, and these are being dropped in areas we live or where our livelihoods are situated. The lives of farmers, producers of our food, should not be a collateral damage in this war. Of the Filipino population we believe that it is us, the farming communities and indigenous peoples, who will greatly benefit if the clash between the military and the NPA ends” said Marlinda Indao, a Lumad woman farmer from Bukidnon and member of the Regional Management Team of MASIPAG in Mindanao.

The intensified military operations has also affected farming activities and livelihoods, thus worsening the already dismal state of our agriculture and contributing to further hunger and starvation of rural communities. The provision of programs and services being rendered by non-government organizations working closely with farming communities and indigenous peoples are also being affected. “The heightened military campaign will only make matters worse for the farmers, who are already burdened by the present problems on agriculture such as lack of land, loss of control on seeds and knowledge and dirt-cheap selling price of their produce” added Tranquilino Pillado Jr, farmer-leader in the province of Antique and Board of Trustees member of MASIPAG.

The network also reiterated its support on both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) to continue the peace talks to finally address the root causes of armed struggle. “Every effort must be extended to deeply understand the problems besetting the nation and finally make terms on how we can all move forward. We in MASIPAG reiterate our stand that true development and genuine agrarian reform should cater the needs and aspirations of the small and resource-poor farmers and farm workers. Farmers should have free access and control over resources such as land, water, seeds and appropriate knowledge for them to produce food for the people. Lasting peace can only be met if we uplift the farmers’ lives and livelihood” said Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG.

A fourth round of peace talk negotiations between the GRP and the NDF is scheduled on April 2-6 in Oslo, Norway.###

 

 

MASIPAG Supports Call to Confirm Envi Sec

MASIPAG has joined the calls for the confirmation of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who has been staunch in her stand in protecting the environment against destructive mining operations.

MASIPAG Regional Coordinator for Mindanao, Leo XL Fuentes Jr. has been quoted in a MindaNews article expressed support, as well as the significant role of agriculture:

Leo Fuentes Jr., regional coordinator of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), highlighted the agriculture’s role in providing potential jobs for workers who may be displaced.

“Before mining companies came to mine the communities, people used to be in farming. Agriculture can provide alternative jobs,” he said.

To read the complete article, click here.