Albay farmers say “Golden Rice in the Bicol Region, No Entry!”

April 26, 2022

by MASIPAG Advocacy

Nine years ago, more than 400 farmers, consumers and development workers decisively uprooted the third and secret Golden Rice field trial in the Regional Field Unit of the Department of Agriculture in Bicol region. The protest action reverberated across the globe, as it crystallized the peoples’ resistance and opposition against the corporate-driven Golden Rice. It effectively halted the planned commercialization in 2014, until a new application was submitted in 2017. 

Fast forward to 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Rice Research Institute announced the approval of Golden Rice’s application for varietal registration under the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC). Moreover, last July 2021, the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) announced that a biosafety permit for propagating the Golden Rice has been issued.

Despite farmers, concerned consumers, and civil society organizations’ not only in Bicol but all throughout the world decade-long resistance against Golden Rice and the further corporate capture of agriculture, there is almost nothing left that will hinder its full-scale implementation. Pilot-scale deployment plans in different provinces including Catanduanes in the Bicol region are set to be implemented in the next few months.

With this, farmers, concerned consumers, and civil society organizations in Bicol have once again taken into their hands the rightful duty to take action against the impending tests of Golden Rice in the region by launching a wide-scale forum and other series of discussions and engagements for the Department of Agriculture to heed their call in rejecting Golden Rice’s entry in the region .

Last April 23, 2022,  initiated by member scientists and farmers of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) and  its partner non-government organization Tarabang para sa Bicol Inc. (TABI) and SIPAG-KO Inc. launched a forum on the Socio-economic, Environmental and Health Impacts of GM crops, particularly Golden Rice, that unveils the curtain of false promises that Golden Rice offers.

Golden Rice–a genetically modified crop branded by corporations as a solution to Vitamin A deficiency in the country–has long been opposed based on its inability to actually give adequate amount of Vitamin A due to its negligible beta-carotene content , lack of independent, long-term, and comprehensive safety tests, and the possibility of irreversibly contaminating local varieties of rice which may lead to the extinction of environmentally apt and naturally resilient traditional and farmer-bred rice varieties thus will also negatively affect the farmers’ already unlivable income thru low crop yield.

In a recent visit of MASIPAG in one of Golden Rice pilot deployment site, the team learned that although the Department of Agriculture has been conducting consultations with the target seed growers and farmers, little to no information has been given with regards to basic information on the technology and its environmental and economic safety nets should the irreversible gene contamination happen.

Target households and communities in one of the pilot deployment sites of Golden Rice in the Bicol region told MASIPAG that they have yet to be comprehensively informed by the government about Golden Rice. According to one of its citizens, they were just told by government representatives that Golden Rice will be given for free- health insurance and safety nets were not mentioned in the said consultation, making the government and other implementing bodies of this dubious rice unaccountable should there be negative effects of Golden Rice when consumed.

MASIPAG stands with its assertion that the problem of malnutrition that the golden rice promises to solve can only be answered by transforming agriculture that places farmers at the center of it–promoting organic and sustainable agriculture anchored in the principles of farmer-led agroecology ultimately achieving diverse, accessible, safe, adequate and nutritious food for all.