MASIPAG in the News
Women farmers from “Kababaehang Nagtataglay ng Bihirang Lakas” (Women possessing extraordinary powers or strength) from Barangay Los Amigos, Tugbok District, Davao City are practicing FAITH (Food Always in The Home), which is made easier with the support from partner NGOs such as METSA Foundation and MASIPAG, and from the local government of Davao City, through its policy on Organic Agriculture.
They were recently visited by funding partners from ASTM in Luxembourg.
Women of Faith Grassroots organic farming thrives in Davao
By Gingging Avellanosa-Valle
“WHEN we are not busy tending to our children on an ordinary day, you will find us in our FAITH garden, making our day worth with our chemical-free vegetables,” says Angelita Manangan, chair of Talomo River Women’s Organization in Calinan District, Davao City.
This women’s organization is a member of a farmer’s federation with a peculiar but apt name called “Kababaehang Nagtataglay ng Bihirang Lakas” (Women possessing extraordinary powers or strength) in Barangay Los Amigos, Tugbok District, Davao City.
Anita “Nena” Morales, executive director of Metsa Foundation in Los Amigos, said there are 14 women farmer’s organization that are members of the federation practicing organic farming in the whole Tugbok District.
These organizations that have had 300 individual members are affiliated with the national farmers’ organization called Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura or Masipag, which has been in existence spanning three decades advocating among others organic farming in the Philippines.
It may sound simplistic, but these extra-ordinary women, indeed, are doing what they bannered in their organizational name by ensuring that there is food for their children to eat each day by practicing Faith, which means Food Always in the Home that is nutritious, healthy and within reach.
Foremost in their minds now is food security, something that the City of Davao has been proud of being the first with a local initiative in 2010 to pass the Organic Agriculture Ordinance ahead of Republic Act 10068 (Organic Agriculture Act of 2010) on the same year.
Moreover, the women also sell their vegetables in City centers along Peoples’ Park and near City Hall every Friday where their certified organic products are available to the public.
Pleasant surprise in one idyllic noonday weekend recently, two members of a foreign funding partner of Masipag Philippines visited the women farmers and exchanged experiences in the field of organic farming.
Julie Anne Smit, project manager for Asia, and Jean Joseph Feyder, member of the board of Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (Third World Solidarity) or ASTM, have listened to the women’s success stories in their pursuit of organic farming and how it has helped their family in many ways.
The visitors also attended the International Conference on People’s Rights in the Philippines held in the city few weeks ago which was attended by over a hundred foreign delegates from different countries around the world.
ASTM is an international non-governmental development in Luxembourg fighting since 1969 for political emancipation, economic and social history of the Third World. It is guided by the conviction that major obstacles to emancipation are located in the centers of economic and political power.
Julie and Jean were happy talking with the women in Talomo Riverside and learning bits about their life in carrying out organic farming. Julie was equally amazed at the Metsa Foundation Center headed by Nena Morales, a long time organic practitioner and woman farmer leader in Davao City, (who is also the widow of deceased former active environmentalist Francis Morales) and the Imulayan Organic Center which is run by farmer Crisostomo Genosas.
Both have been stalwarts in the struggles of MASIPAG since its inception years planting, in the idea of organic farming. Better prospects for Organic Farming Located in the heart of Barangay Los Amigos, Tugbok situated in the third congressional district of Davao City, which is considered an agricultural area, Ms. Morales said there had been 70 percent to 80 percent of inhabitants who are largely engaged in farming.
Of these population, still very few have adopted organic farming, though many people are interested to learn. Thus even with the publicized so called mainstreaming of Bt Corn in the country as claimed by a group involved in the development of biotech in the country, Masipag Mindanao has consistently pursued its advocacy, said Mr. Leo XL Fuentes, the regional coordinator of Masipag-Mindanao.
Despite recent organizational problems that Masipag-Mindanao is confronting, Fuentes said they are standing pat on their advocacies and calls on the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to persistently advance a chemical-free agricultural development.
“Dapat baguhin na ang pagsasaka mula sa chemical-based at monocropping patungo sa diversified and integrated farming systems (DIFS), agroecology at organic farming (There is a need to replace an agriculture that is chemical-based and mono-cropping towards a diversified and integrated farming system, agroecology and organic farming),” states Masipag in its recent newsletter.#
A network of organizations opposing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) on Wednesday made an appeal to agriculture secretary Emmanuel Piñol to provide sustainable agricultural production and safe food for Filipinos.
Resist Agrochem Transnational Corporations Network is a broad alliance of Philippine-based farmers’ organizations, non-government organizations, scientists, environmental activists, health workers, members of the academe and concerned individuals who are against the use of GMOs by companies producing agricultural chemicals.
The group said the Duterte administration’s goal of poverty eradication can be achieved through genuine land reform and providing safe, sustainable agricultural production that can be managed by farmers and local producers.
The network, in a statement, challenged the DA to uphold the rights and welfare of farmers and consumers.
The DA is the lead agency implementing the Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1, series of 2016, the current guideline on the propagation, importation, commercialization, research and development of genetically-modified crops, particularly plant and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology.
The circular is in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the field testing of BT talong (eggplant), a reversal of an earlier ruling.
The Magsasaka at Siyentista para sa Agrikultura (Masipag) said the DA should support, promote and enhance the best practices of sustainable agriculture and farming already adopted by farmers who refuse to use chemical-based farm inputs and genetically modified technologies.
“We must protect our traditional and heirloom varieties. The government must support the practice and development of sustainable agriculture and provide much-needed support services to help farmers increase their yield as this will contribute to food security and self-sufficiency,” said Masipag campaign officer Alfie Pulumbarit.
Agham, a group advocating science and technology for the people, stated the junking of the joint department circular should be prioritized in order to end the monopoly control of corporations in agriculture.
“The path to food security and self-sufficiency should not mean the promotion of and reliance to foreign and corporate-controlled agriculture technologies,” said Agham secretary general Feny Cosico.
The group will seek further dialogues with Secretary Piñol to present their agenda on food security. Ma. Czarina A. Fernandez, INQUIRER.net trainee
Farmer-Scientist group assert Bt talong unsafe despite SC reversal on decision against Bt talong field trials
Quezon City – Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG together with RESIST Agrochem TNCs! today picketed in front of the Department of Agriculture to protest the decision of the Supreme Court reversing its earlier decision regarding the halt of Bt talong field testing. The Supreme Court reversed its earlier ruling due to ‘mootness’ of the case stemming from the expiration of the biosafety permits issued by the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) and the termination of Bt talong field trials which are the subject of the permits. According to Theodore Te, spokesperson of the Supreme Court (SC), the reliefs sought by the respondents are negated as there was no longer any field test to stop.
The group was surprised on the SC decision, as the issue on mootness was raised several times but was refuted by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court in its December 2015 decision. The SC cited arguments such as the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved and the case is capable of repetition yet evading review, which was the basis why the SC proceeded in its decision regarding Bt talong field trials.
While the SC said that the Bt talong proponents neither went beyond the field-testing phase nor distributed the product commercially, MASIPAG is firm that the proponents will push for another round of Bt talong field trials and commercialization in the future. MASIPAG cited the experience of farmers in Camarines Sur wherein the proponents of Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice, promised them that no further field testing will be done after two field testings last 2012. Yet in 2013, the proponents made a secretive third field testing on the said area, prompting farmers to uproot the Golden Rice field test to assert their rights to health and the environment. MASIPAG opined that in order to escape lawsuit, the Bt talong project proponents have opted to do away with future field testings while the case is being heard. Yesterday Bt talong proponent Dr Desiree Hautea, in a news article, said that they are now targeting the commercialization of Bt talong production within a year’s time.
MASIPAG also said that while the SC decided that the case is moot, the decision does conclude that Bt talong is safe. MASIPAG maintains its stand against Bt talong, and asserts that it is unsafe to consumers and the environment.
“Despite the reversal of the ruling, the court did not find the more important issues regarding the effect of the field trials of Bt talong unsubstantive. Both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court based its earlier decision on the precautionary principle, as the proponents did not present any compelling evidence to ascertain the safety of GM product. Substantive issues raised such as meaningful public participation, non compliance to environmental impact assessment, conflicts of interests among others are still relevant regarding future activities on GMOs” said Dr Chito Medina, National Coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG.
Core to the Supreme Court’s December 2015 decision is the application of the Precautionary Principle. The court, which has acted on evidences presented (both by the petitioners and respondents) and the current state of GMOs worldwide, finds three conditions present on the case – uncertainty, the possibility of irreversible harm and the possibility of serious harm – which warranted the application of the precautionary principle. The magistrates sees no full scientific proof, and that no clear and definite answers were presented by the respondents to warrant safety of Bt talong on people’s health and the environment.
The court also cited the non-implementation of the National Biosafety Framework in the crucial stages of risk assessment, shallow public consultation and the non-performance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIS law) as additional compelling basis for safety. Thus the court not only based its decision on technical issues but also ventured into public policies governing GMOs, warranting the stoppage of the Bt talong field trials and nullifying the DA Administrative Order No.8 (DA AO8) as basis for approving and regulating field testing and commercialization.
“These substantive issues however were sidelined as the DA railroaded the consultation which should have been a venue to craft a new policy that will protect the constitutional rights of the people against GMOs. The DA gave in to the pressure of the livestock and feeds industry as these industries are heavily reliant on imported GM soya products” added Marcelino dela Rosa, board member of MASIPAG who attended the consultation called for by the Department of Agriculture to formulate a Joint Department Circular on GMOs to replace the DA Administrative Order Number 8 of 2002.
MASIPAG, together with sectors coming from the academe, NGOs, consumer and science groups also called on the recently appointed DA Secretary Manny Piñol to look into the matter as permits for the importation, field testing and commercialization of GM products continues despite pronouncements of the group on the adverse effects on health, environment and incomes of farmers of GMOs. “We call on the current administration to veer away from GMOs as basis for its food security and self-sufficiency programs. GMOs would only promote more corporate control in our already burdened farmers. We call on farmer-led sustainable approaches in agriculture that will provide safe and sufficient food for the people, respects the rights of the farmers and takes care of the environment” added Medina.###
PGS Lanao del Norte – Iligan was launched in July 5, 2016 in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte in conjunction with the Kapatagan Municipality’s 2nd Agri-Aqua and Livestock Fair. The PGS group also awarded the certificates to the first batch of farmers who passed the guarantee system’s inspection and evaluation process.
The municipality of Kapatagan’s former Mayor and now Vice-Mayor Benjie Baguio initiated the development of PGS in the municipality and later in the whole province, including Iligan City while the newly elected Mayor Barry Baguio promised to continue the legacy of the former Mayor in developing sustainable and organic agriculture in the municipality and of the province.
Also present in the event are the Governor, Vice-Governor and Congressman of the Province who vowed to support the initiatives of the farmers and expand PGS in many municipalities of the Province. Newly appointed DA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Ranibai Dilangalen also expressed her support to the farmers who are the backbone of agricultural development of the province.#
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein
Early this July, a spate of news from pro-GMO camps (which includes IRRI and Mark Lynas) struck the headlines wherein they praised the report made by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine regarding safety of GM crops. According to the news, the elite panel concluded that no ‘substantiated’ evidence exists that genetically engineered crops have caused health problems in humans or damaged the environment. Alongside this is the letter by more than 100 Nobel laureates urging environmental group Greenpeace to cease and desist from its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and food improved through biotechnology in general.
It is as if the earth’s vanguards of ‘science’ has united to finally put an end to the debate on GM crops. As what Mark Lynas has said, the issue on GM crops are now been definitively put to bed.
But let us tell you our experience.
The Philippines is being hailed as the first country in Asia to have commercialized GM corn. To date, GM corn is being grown to more than 700 thousand hectares of agricultural land, more than one fourth of the total area devoted for corn. About 8 varieties of GM corn are approved for planting, which includes mainly herbicide tolerant and insect resistant varieties. Since 2003, the government has allowed the importation of more than 70 kinds of GM products for food, feed and processing. The country has also become the launching pad of IRRI’s Green Revolution, a strategy posed to curb hunger and poverty among rice growing nations in Asia. The Golden Rice Project is also housed in IRRI. Proponents have also hailed the Philipines as the country to emulate having one of the strictest biosafety regulation.
So how is the Philippines faring? We have been a net importer of rice for so many decades. The Green Revolution fostered by IRRI resulted to displacement of traditional and improved rice varieties, changed the culture of self-reliance and food security among farmers while chemical inputs poisoned the land, water and our bodies. Farmers planting GM corn have become more indebted due to high input costs coupled by low incomes. Traditional corn varieties, a staple of farming communities and indigenous groups, are now contaminated with GM corn traits. Every year, millions of liters of pesticide Glyphosate are being used and poured over hectares of GM corn farms all over the country exposing farmer communities to the carcinogen.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines, in its ruling against the field trials of Bt eggplant, said that the administrative order on GMOs failed in meeting the public participation requirement of the Cartagena Protocol and the country’s National Biosafety Framework, having all the badges of a ‘greenwash’: merely an exhibition of symbolic compliance to environmental and biosafety policy. Add to this the lack of independent health and environmental studies to ascertain safety of the GM product. Consultations to create a democratic, science-based and pro-farmer policy on GMOs was railroaded, as the country became hostage to of the import-dependent livestock industry rushing to secure imported GM soya. Proponents have, for years, been pushing for the commercialization of Golden Rice, amidst proven alternatives and interventions leading to a 22.8% decline of VAD cases from 38% in 1998 to only 15.2% cases in 2008.
Thus it should not be a surprise that farmers and consumers in the Philippines are clamoring against the continued promotion and introduction of GMOs.
It is quite ironic that the very same institutions and corporations that basically created the conditions which robbed the farmers of their primary role to produce food for the people, are now putting themselves in the position to impose solutions that will create more dependence, more hunger and poverty for the farmers. Farmers are starving and poor, not because of the lack of technologies to increase productivity, but because companies have so much control of the agriculture system that the farmers lost their ability to decide on how they will produce food. Corporate science is now being used to subdue the powerless and the disenfranchised.
While corporations are spending billions of dollars to develop new GM crops, farmers are slowly realizing their important taks to fulfill their role in securing food. They are now in the forefront of addressing issues on climate change, market-led and chemical-intensive agriculture, and neoliberal policies. Farmer-led initiatives such as breeding climate-resilient varieties, alternative marketing systems, community seed banking and diversification of food crops are far more sustainable, contributes to their empowerment, and addresses the social determinants of health.
It is no surprise that soon, IRRI and its partners in the life science industry will once again renew its push for the commercialization of Golden Rice. Which is why we need to continually engage and expose their distorted paradigm of addressing food security, in turn to also help the people decide to take the path to sustainability and food sovereignty.###