CATANDUANES – Farming and abaca production are the main sources of income for the majority of Catanduanes residents. It consists of 12,679 abaca farmers with a total land area of 33,097 hectares in 11 abaca-producing towns. The province was designated as the Philippines’ abaca capital in 2021, which significantly contributed to the country’s status as the world’s leading producer of abaca, delivering 87 percent of the world’s demand in natural fiber.
Despite its significance, abaca farming has been put in danger owing to the introduction and usage of Glyphosate in land preparations. Glyphosate, a product made by agrochemical transnational corporation Monsanto, is the world’s most frequently used and heavily administered herbicide. In fact, Monsanto rakes up huge profits amounting to almost $6 billion from sales. It kills weeds by interfering with the proteins required for plant development, and it is always used in combination with other chemicals. In the Philippines, it is more commonly known as “Sharp Shooter”, “Round-Up”, and “Power-Shine”.
Ruben Tindok, an abaca farmer with a few hectares of abaca farm in Gigmoto, was known to use glyphosate on his farm. He used the herbicide to instantly establish his farm area following a harvest. After a year of using Glyphosate, his farm’s output phase increased; nevertheless, he noticed that his abaca plants began to grow thinner than normal. Furthermore, his Narra trees, which were planted near abaca plots, grow bare of leaves and die after a few months. He stopped using Glyphosate at this point.
Ruben’s experience is similar to other farmers using Glyphosate in other provinces such as Isabela, Capiz, Pangasinan, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat. A study made by MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura) in 2012 on the Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts of Glyphosate showed accounts of farmers on Glyphosate use which includes sickly livestock; such as disoriented egg-laying chickens, death of Carabaos, and having nearby crops affected by Glyphosate.
Beyond weeds, Glyphosate attacks our health
In 2018, MASIPAG did community research on the prevalence and persistence of herbicide in Brgy. Guinbialan, Maayon, Capiz. Using the Dipstick strip test, the group conducted tests on the presence of glyphosate in crops, persons, soil, and water sources in the community in collaboration with the people’s organization in the barangay. The outcome of the research demonstrated that glyphosate is prevalent and widespread in the community’s primary resources, including water sources and soil, during the cropping season, and that glyphosate has an adverse impact on health, causing cancer, birth defects, and contamination of urine and food.
Sito Aleco, a farmer from Maayon, Capiz, shared his and his wife’s experience on cultivating Genetically Modified (GM) corn with the use of Glyphosate. Sito used to spray the said chemical without any protective equipment while wearing only their usual work clothes. With the use of Glyphosate, Sito eventually noticed irritation on his skin and difficulties in breathing with instances where he inhaled the chemical during spraying. Her wife, who died from colon cancer in 2003, had the same experience in using Glyphosate on their farm. In addition, Sito and his neighbors used to drink water from a spring near the area where GM Corn is planted. In the 2018 study, the presence of Glyphosate was discovered in their urines.
Glyphosate is known in other countries to cause kidney failures, birth defects, endocrine system disruption, among others. These were all reported in countries, such as Argentina, Sri Lanka, etc., where glyphosate is widely used. It has also been declared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer under the World Health Organization as a Category 2A Carcinogenic which means that Glyphosate causes cancer.
For others, the usage of glyphosate remains the quickest way to reduce the time required for land preparation (weeding), alongside that the majority of newly introduced agricultural crops today are bundled with this technology provided by corporations. However, the continued use of glyphosate presents a significant risk to Filipino farmers seeking to ensure safe and sustainable agricultural production, preserve soil fertility, and achieve sustainability and a healthy community. With this, the continual use of glyphosate in Catanduanes poses a significant danger to the island’s abaca sector as well as the health of the people and farmers.
MASIPAG along with farmers, consumers, and communities aiming for sustainable agriculture and food systems has long been calling for the ban of Glyphosate in the country as it poses grave threats not only to farmers but also to the communities ’ health and environment. Now, we continue to echo their calls and maximize all possible platforms to raise awareness and mobilize communities in rejecting the use of Glyphosate, resisting corporate solutions, and pushing government bodies to put a stop to its use.
Ben Rosario (2021); “Catanduanes Declared Nation’s Abaca Capital”, Manila Bulletin https://mb.com.ph/2021/01/04/catanduanes-declared-nations-abaca-capital/
Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (2018); “Glyphosate Residues in Genetically-Modified Corn Fields in Maayon, Capiz” https://masipag.org/2020/11/masipag-book-glyphosate-residues-in-genetically-modified-corn-fields-in-maayon-capiz-out-now/