Food is a central part of the Filipino life. Food and agriculture is central to rural development, a source of livelihood of small farmers, and a reflection of Filipino’s ingenuity and resilience. For the people of an agricultural country such as the Philippines to go hungry due to increased control of industrial agriculture giants, is therefore unacceptable and must be resisted.
This was the central theme of “Food. Farming. Freedom.: Breaking Food Chains, Building Food Webs,” a gathering of more than 100 local producers and consumers advocating for food access and justice held in Ateneo De Manila University on October 26. The event aimed to “raise greater awareness of the critical issues surrounding the current food system, skewed towards corporatization and profit-centricity” and promote a healthier, safer, more just and sustainable alternative food production systems. Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG is among the organizers of Food. Farming. Freedom, along with Good Food Community, Me & My Veg Mouth and Bread of Freedom.
“This is a timely activity as we get to further expose the state of our food system and why we experience rice and food crises,” said Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG. “Food systems are not only about how we grow our food, and how the consumption and distribution of food affects the environment or contributes to climate change. It also about who controls and dominates the kind of production and resources we use and access.”
Privately-owned and profit-driven technologies such as patented high-yielding and genetically modified seeds are being prominently promoted by governments to supposedly improve and develop food production. The use of these expensive seeds and other external inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has changed not only the agricultural production, but also the consumption and buying patterns of Filipinos.
The event featured a variety of interconnected inputs from resource persons, and workshops that aim to encourage actions and alternatives from the farmers, consumers, and other sectors who participated. Farmers also brought organic products and shared seeds among participants, while chefs prepared dishes out of the produce from farmers.
Chef and educator Asha Peri of Bread of Freedom discussed the industrial food chain and peasant food web to show that local food security is possible through the production and consumption of local food crops. “By supporting our own food webs, we are assured of our health and safety, as well as the safety of our planet.” Peri later went on to lead a workshop on “how to provide plant-centered education in pre-schools.”
“It is important that we re-shape how we see and treat traditional and local foods, and it can be done by starting with the little kids and instilling with them the value of eating right and healthy.”
The Food. Farming. Freedom event likewise touched on the issues currently faced by the agriculture sector. The Rice Liberalization Law and the genetically modified Golden Rice were also discussed extensively, eliciting broader support from ordinary consumers.
“On one hand, the rice crisis that our farmers are experiencing right now has generated awareness and support from the Filipino public,” said Panerio. “We hope that this support can be sustained and translated into positive action that will address the farmers’ issues and in the longer term, assert for better policies in food production.”
“We encourage the people to support the calls such as the junking of the Rice Tariffication Law, and the halt of the Golden Rice commercialization.”#