ROXAS City — Farmers from Antique, Capiz, Iloilo and Negros Occidental claimed to have been deceived by technicians from genetically modified (GM) seed corporations and the Department of Agriculture (DA) into cultivating GM corns.
Ten years ago, the farmers were told that planting GM corn will increase their production and improve their income, and thus improve their quality of life, their representatives told DA officials.
Since GM corn production comes with huge volumes of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, the farmers entered into a loan with private financiers, with their harvest as payment at the financiers’ dictated price, they said.
Melchor Asupardo from Dumarao, Capiz, said GM corn farming contaminated their traditional and open-pollinated corn varieties.
Private traders sell only GM corn, leaving farmers with no other option but to plant GM corn seeds, and the farmers got hooked to acquiring more debts they could no longer pay, he said.
Because of unpaid loans, most of the farmers lost their lands to their financiers, he said.
Glyphosate herbicides being sprayed on glyphosate-tolerant GM corn also caused the farmers health problems and prevented them from planting vegetables near GM-corn fields, said Asupardo.
The farmers also told DA officials that they wanted to stop cultivating GM corn already and asked for “substantial and programmatic support” to convert into farming non-GM corn and other crops.
They said they wanted to pursue organic farming, but they need government support, considering that they have also been victims of super typhoon “Yolanda.”
During a dialogue with the farmers at the DA regional office in Iloilo City on March 28, DA regional director Larry Nacionales committed to provide alternative livelihood to the farmers.
He promised that DA Region 6 will provide them with white corn for seed production, vegetable seeds, livestock, and farm machineries such as corn sheller, hammer mill for feeds processing, and carabaos./PN