How MASAGANA 99 Destroyed the Health of Our Farmers and the Ecology of Our Rural Lands

January 20, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

NOWHERE are the effects of Marcos Sr.’s MASAGANA 99 that mainstreamed IRRI’s High Yielding Variety technology more visible than in what it had done and continues to do to the farmland, waterways, farm animals and plants, and even to the human beings who come in contact with it. The essence of the MASAGANA 99’s technology is poison: poison circulating in the air, dissolved in the rivers and creeks, poison slowly contaminating the land and threatening the children.

In a study conducted by IRRI scientists led by M.E. Loevinsohn in 1982 in a city and three municipalities of Nueva Ecija, almost a decade since MASAGANA 99 was implemented, revealed a positive correlation between increased use of pesticides and an increase in non-accidental death rates. The study noted that the sharp rise in non-accidental death rates in the areas studied started in 1970 when agro-chemical sales began to increase till they rose by as much as 300 percent in the years 1972 to 1975 alone.

Then Ministry of Health (now Department of Health) graphs, consulted in the IRRI study revealed that weekly reported cases of influenza, bronchitis, pulmonary tuberculosis and gastro-enteritis in Nueva Ecija increased during the months when the spraying of chemicals for dry and wet season crops was as its peak, that is January to February and August to September.

More disturbingly, rural and urban death rates were found to remain at approximately the same level from 1964 to 1970, but that since 1970 and onwards where MASAGANA 99 was implemented and mainstreamed IRRI’s HYV pesticide dependent seeds, rural deaths have remained consistently above the urban levels. One possible implication is that the extra deaths were caused directly or indirectly by pesticides used as components of IRRI’s HYV technology.

Doctors consulted on the results of the study said even subtle doses of pesticides reduced the people’s capacity to resist infection and illnesses to which they were prone.

The chemical poison from MASAGANA 99’s proliferation of IRRI’s HYV technology has also created wastelands dangerous to animals and man.

In the areas studied by the now defunct ACES foundation, INC. where MASAGANA 99 was implemented, farm animals appeared sickly or vanished from the rural scene.

There were high death rates of livestock and carabaos – 20 percent of farmer respondents complained of “frequent animal deaths” – due to pesticide poisoning, which also killed edible frogs, snails and crickets which were supplementary sources of protein for the farmers’ households.

Some fish species, too, have disappeared in certain areas while there has been a general decrease of the fish population. A good number (63 percent) of farmers interviewed complained of a decreasing fish population, while others revealed observable changes in the taste of the remaining fish- due to the use of chemicals.

Frequent and heavier applications of pesticides during the height of MASAGANA 99’s implementation were also observed to facilitate the emergence of resistant strains, which strains then multiplied to pass on the resistance of their offsprings. In a report made by the Farmers’ Assistance Board in 1982, around 400 species of insects and mites are already resistant to pesticides. Some can even tolerate whole categories of agricultural poisons and they become more serious pests than ever before.

Additionally, a slow but steady disappearance of many forms of aquatic life in rivers, streams and irrigation canals in the studied areas reveals the extent of water contamination which may affect or afflict humans, especially small farmers.

On the other hand, depletion of land minerals and degradation of land fertility were observed in land areas that underwent intensive exposure to petroleum-based, commercial, inorganic fertilizers. Some 41 percent of the farmers interviewed by ACES believed their soil “needs a lot of fertilizer” while 32 percent observed their solid was “weakening” and had become acidic because of the two-cropping system which causes the land to tire. Other farmers said their solid had become “sticky” and “hard to crush” because of flooding and the prolonged presence of water.

Today, the son of the mastermind of MASAGANA 99, President Marcos Jr. plans to revive and intensify the MASAGANA 99 project under the name MASAGANA 150 and MASAGANA 200. Almost 50 years ago since his father’s grave implementation of MASAGANA 99 and its fatal and lasting consequences to our farmers and environment health, had he not learned the lessons of it? Or is it still the same profit-over-people scheme for the son of the late dictator?

Makialam! Magbahagi!

Reference: Modina R.B., Ridao A. R., IRRI Rice: The Miracle That Never Was. ACES Foundation, Inc.