On World Hunger Day, Forward Biodiversity, not Biofortification in fighting hunger and malnutrition!

October 16, 2021

by MASIPAG National Office

Despite food production capable of feeding the global populace many times over, 928 million people all over the world, mostly women and children, remain undernourished and food insecure. This is the backdrop of this year’s World Food Day.

Held every  October 16, this collective activity is led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) and is carried out by 150 countries to promote worldwide awareness and action in response to hunger and malnutrition across the world. This year, FAO calls for “Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life” by promoting sustainable agri-food systems ensuring sufficient, nutritious, and safe food for all.

However, these statements do not reflect the current food system responsible for millions suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Ironically, FAO has entered into a toxic alliance with the agrochemical and life science industry, the very same proponents behind the Green Revolution, which systematically undermined the genuine sustainability of agrifood systems for the sake of profit, and for 60 years has failed in its promise of ending hunger and malnutrition.

Corporations are harping on the promises of biofortification to curb widespread hunger and malnutrition. Using modern biotechnology, biofortification focuses on increasing a few select nutrients in crops, promoting a single-crop diet that has proven to be a false and reductionist approach to solving malnutrition. Biofortified crops are touted as the cheapest and most efficient way to address malnutrition, and as such are gaining widespread acceptance especially among governments. 

The truth is, its main proponent the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has already spent $500 million on these programs since 2002.Under CGIAR are such entities as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), HarvestPlus, and International Potato Centre, whose projects are funded by philanthrocapitalist Bill Gates and the United States Agency for International Development (US AID). To gain public trust and demand, they make use of deceptive language such as labeling biofortified crops as “Golden Rice”, “Super Banana”, “Golden Potatoes,” and “Orange Maize,” creating the false impression that other food options are inherently deficient. Proponents even co-opt women in rural areas in promoting these technologies in households and communities.

Contrary to the claims of these crop biofortification pushers, in countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, biofortification did nothing to resolve hunger and malnutrition. Instead, biofortification forcibly pushed people to shift from diverse to monotonous diets and crop production. Production of biofortified crops will also cause the erosion of agro-biodiversity and the destruction of the ecological foundations of local and traditional farming practices. In fact, even with the presence of these so-called solutions, Asia and Africa suffer from the highest rates of chronic hunger and malnutrition in the world. Corporations’ top-down, market-based and anti-biodiversity approach to food and health issues not only failed but also aggravated the crisis of hunger and malnutrition in countries in the Global South.

Last July 2021, Syngenta-ChemChina, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Philippine Rice Research Institute, and the Department of Agriculture (DA), managed to have Golden Rice approved for commercial propagation despite overwhelming public resistance. According to DA Secretary William Dar, Golden Rice aims to “complement” current interventions to address Vitamin A deficiency. However, Golden Rice, or should be aptly called GM Yellow Rice, contains negligible amounts of beta-carotene, rendering it useless to even serve its supposed purpose. Farmers, consumers, and other stakeholders consider this technology unnecessary, unwanted, harmful, and a waste of resources.

For almost 20 years, members of civil society have strongly expressed their opposition to GM Yellow Rice as it can cause grave threats to the people’s health, livelihood, and basic rights. Moreover, this will eradicate the Filipino farmers’ way of farming, rice breeding practices, and even the Philippines’ rice varieties. These techno-fix solutions serve nothing but gains for the global corporate food empire.

On World HungerDay, MASIPAG forwards the people’s call for genuine solutions to Vitamin A Deficiency, malnutrition, and hunger!

Putting an end to hunger means putting an end to false solutions proliferated by corporations and collectively pushing for meaningful changes in policy and development frameworks that place people’s right to food, development, and farmers’ welfare at the front and center. Malnutrition and hunger are not just a matter of lack of access to food, but a result of structural problems caused by prioritizing profit over the people’s interests.

With this, MASIPAG is carrying out its campaigns combating deceptive narratives by corporations with a focus on Golden Rice, and promoting genuine solutions to food security and sustainable farming systems by promoting and protecting our biodiversity.

World Food Day should be aptly declared  World Hunger Day to highlight the crimes committed by greedy corporations and their local collaborators, their complicity and lack of accountability in today’s food crisis, and record-breaking rates of hunger and malnutrition. We call on everyone to take part in holding these corporations accountable and participate in social movements calling for safe, adequate, healthy, and accessible food for all.

Moreover, in celebration of Peasant Month, we call on farmers to promote campaigns against violations of farmers’ rights to land, seed, and technology and against neoliberal policies that permit excessive importation and cause damages to farmers’ incomes and livelihood. We are calling out the government’s criminal negligence to farmers’ demands for aid in the middle of the pandemic. 

We also demand lawmakers, key government officials, and even aspiring politicians in the upcoming National Elections, to provide and amplify the calls for immediate interventions along with other demands of small and resource-poor farmers in terms of policy reforms and programs. Lastly, we call upon all peoples to acknowledge and embrace their role in bringing about just, healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems.

Resist corporate exploitation and profiteering from hunger and malnutrition!

Fight for just, healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems!