To Protect the Environment is to Protect our Biodiversity – Pursue Farmer-led Agroecology Now!

June 6, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) is one with the people in celebrating World Environment Day. Moreover, the farmer-led network forwards that upholding biodiversity is how we can holistically protect and conserve the environment and not green technofix solutions of agrochemical corporations.

Currently, the Philippines is dominated by capital and chemical intensive farming spearheaded by agrochemical corporations. All for the sake of huge profits for the few under the guise of high production, social equity and our environment are being sacrificed–poisoned and degraded.

Since the latter half of the 20th century dubbed as the Green Revolution, agrochemical corporations have dominated the global agricultural system with its package of technologies, specifically its dependence on synthetic inputs such as chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which takes up almost, if not more than half, of the total production cost. Today, one of the most used chemical inputs not only in farms but also in domestic areas is the Monsanto-owned herbicide Glyphosate which is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a type Group 2A carcinogen deeming it as cancerous to humans upon exposure. Meanwhile, the agrochemical corporation Monsanto recorded 14 billion dollars in net revenue last 2022.

In MASIPAG’s 2020 study on genetically modified (GM) corn farms that are highly dependent on Glyphosate here in the Philippines, we have found that there is a presence of it in the water, soil,corn, and even urine of farmers who plant it. This is very alarming because we already know of Glyphosate’s adverse health effects to farmers and to our local biodiversity yet our government and agrochemical corporations are still pushing it to our farmers

According to the 10 year study of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) initiated by the United Nations, the gains in the dominant capital and chemical intensive agriculture is at the expense of the environment and social equity – the current system of agriculture now is at the crossroads and a sustainable alternative is hastily needed.

When GM crops were introduced here in the Philippines in the early 2000s, what it did was only strengthened our agriculture’s dependence on highly hazardous and environmentally degrading chemical inputs further putting our biodiversity and health at risk. Promising us farmers with deceptive and incomplete information on its pest and other resilience, these GM crops only recycled the unsustainability of the Green Revolution.

Yet it has been common wisdom to us organic farmers that upholding and conserving our biodiversity is the holistic key in making our crops naturally resilient to many environmental pressures particularly to pests and climate change. What keeps the pests at bay – our first line of defense is our robust biodiversity. Poisoning it with chemical herbicides and pesticides just to control a few insects will only lead to further problems in the long term such as the resurgence of herbicide tolerant superpests and superweeds.

Indeed as early as 1982 during the peak of the Green Revolution, Farmers’ Assistance Board recorded that there have already been around 400 species of insects and mites that are already resistant to pesticides – which up to now is still being “solved ” by more pesticides.

We have seen that this corporate-led package of technologies that comes in GM farming only further contributes to the snowballing of the problem started by the Green Revolution, for which the end game is an infinite capitalization of its consequences in our health and the environment. If we are indeed serious in conserving and protecting our environment, individual responsibility is not enough to attain it, what we need is systems change especially in agriculture- from capital and chemical intensive agriculture to sustainable and organic farmer-led agriculture.