On IRRI’s 62nd Anniversary, Farmer-Scientist Network Holds Press Conference to Stop the Entry of IRRI’s Golden Rice – Calls For All Candidates to Support Just, Equitable, Safe, Healthy, And Sustainable Food Production

April 4, 2022

by MASIPAG National Office

ILOILO CITY | April 4, 2022 Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), a farmer-scientist network, along with the Stop Golden Rice Network and other international and local civil society organizations, held a press conference to register the people’s intense opposition to IRRI’s Golden Rice unwanted, impractical and possibly dangerous entry in our market and local rice paddies. 

“62 years ago, IRRI was founded in Los Baños, Laguna  62 years ago, in order to have land for their infrastructure and corporate technology, IRRI deceived the farmers of Los Baños with its false promises of livelihood security effectively turning them into once rigorous and knowledge farmers to mere passive recipients of their technology ultimately demonizing their environmentally apt traditional and local knowledge as backwards and anti-science” said by Cris Panerio, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. 

“IRRI has a long list of crimes against Filipino farmers- from contracting cancer and tuberculosis-like ailments due to long term exposure to chemical pesticides and such, erasing our thousands of traditional and farmer-bred rice varieties and trapping, and trapping our farmers under mountains of financial debt due to costly chemical inputs that their seeds require.” Panerio added.

The press conference was attended by farmers from target pilot-scale deployment areas of Golden Rice, scientists, rice breeders, civil society leaders, and aspiring public officials condemning IRRI’s sixty two years of corporate capture of the country’s agricultural and food production and its latest project Golden Rice that promises to solve vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in the country amid legitimate criticisms with regards to environmental and health safeness in propagation and consumption. 

Rodolfo Cortez, farmer-leader from Negros in the island of Visayas where one of the target regional pilot deployment site of Golden Rice shared in the press conference shared how his fellow farmers from around the Philippines share the same worry and sentiment to reject it. 

“Farmers, especially Masipag farmers  from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and those who advocate for environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture vehemently reject IRRI’s golden rice. PhilRice, IRRI, and DA are all doing questionable steps to legitimize Golden Rice in our rice paddies yet they all offer little to no information on its environmental and health precautions. Moreso, its marketability amid the unreasonably low price of rice grain in the market due to the Rice Tarification Law” said Cortez. Farmer-leader Jocelyn “Malvin” Jamandron from Antique and Tarabang para sa Bicol (TABI), a non-government organization collaborating with farmers, also expressed strong opposition to Golden Rice entry as it brings grave risks to farmer’s livelihood, health, and environment.

Prior to the launching of press release, people’s organizations and farmers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao held protests from the farms (protestang bukid) declaring that they will not plant and propagate Golden Rice especially that it came from IRRI that implemented the green revolution and Masagana 99. Under the green revolution, IRRI provided the technology that structurally displaced farmers in participating in agricultural and food production by treating them as passive recipients of unsustainable technologies such as high yielding varieties (HYV) and hazardous and costly chemical inputs and fertilizers.

“IRRI promised us of a bountiful harvest if we plant their monoculture oriented and genetically modified crops, yet what did we get? – abnormal occurrence of pests due to disrupted local ecology, piling financial debts due to heavy pesticide use, and already exhausted and unplantable soil within a short period of time. As long as IRRI exists, we will never achieve genuine food sovereignty” declared by Dr. Chito Medina, environmental biologist.

“IRRI’s Golden Rice once planted here in the Philippines will trigger a kind of living pollution and irreversible environmental damage. GMO crops such as Golden Rice contaminates local rice varieties, ultimately erasing the genetic trait and characteristics of our traditional and farmer-bred rice varieties. Years of effort spent to breed climate change resilient varieties that are ecologically apt will  go extinct in a blink of an eye” said Medina.

Adding to the question of technical legitimacy of IRRI’s Golden Rice, former Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary and Anakpawis Partylist first nominee Ka Paeng Mariano reiterated the people’s, especially the consumers, active participation in scrutinizing and making sure that these kind projects are for the people and not for the wealthy few.

“If we look back in history, IRRI benefited greatly during the Marcos dictatorship with Marcos granting legal immunity to IRRI by passing PD 1620. Came the failure and exposure of the many crimes of Marcos’ MASAGANA 99 and the Green Revolution against the Filipino people where IRRI served as its technical resource, PD 1620 was what protected IRRI and allowed it to continuously operate and harm the Filipino farmers up to this day” said Mariano.

“Now more than ever, people’s participation in opposing IRRI’s scheme, especially its Golden Rice project is pivotal not only to prevent the potential environmental, health, and economical damage that it will bring upon us, but also to forward our campaign for a farmer-led agriculture and pro-people food system.” Mariano ended. 

For more than thirty years, MASIPAG has been actively advocating for farmers’ sovereignty over food, land, technology and seeds. With its founding members consisting of scientists and farmers who first hand experienced the damage of IRRI’s scheme of corporatizing agriculture during the Green Revolution, the farmer-scientist network is in full resolved to liberate agriculture to the claws of the transnational agro-chemical corporations and transform it to a farmer-led agriculture and pro-people food system anchored in the principles of agroecology and biodiversification. ###

Read more about our campaign: https://masipag.org/2022/03/golden-rice-no-entry-shutdown-irriprotect-farmers-and-consumers-rights/

Petition to revoke the biosafety permit for the commercial propagation of Golden Rice: https://www.change.org/p/stop-golden-rice/u/29416306?recruiter=1152277425&utm_source=share_update&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=facebook