The International Rice Congress: Further Corporate Dominance in Rice Science and Rice Industry

October 17, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

What is the International Rice Congress and why is it a problem for farmers?

Convened every four years by the International Rice Research Institute or IRRI who is responsible for the disastrous MASAGANA 99, the International Rice Congress (IRC) is a corporate platform for supposedly scientific rice-based food systems innovators towards shaping a food- and nutrition secure future.

Together with its unholy band of agro-chemical corporations sponsored by none other than Bayer, this year’s theme of IRC is called “From Gene to Globe” further privileging the role of genetically modified (GM) crops and its package of highly hazardous technologies in “solving” hunger further displacing food sovereignty and actual farmers in the production and development of rice industry and agriculture in general.

Unveiling the Corporate Interest

According to IRC’ website prestige sponsors like Bayer have a guarantee of speakership during the entire conference where it can freely market its products.

Bayer being infamously recognized as one of the “big 4” agro-chemical corporations world has a standing record of paying billions of dollars for more than 100,000 cancer lawsuits due to its Roundup Herbicide product. Despite its highly hazardous properties, Bayer’s Roundup Herbicide is still one of the widely used herbicides in the world, mostly in corn plantations in the Philippines.

International Rice Congress of the Few

Also published in its website, IRC audience profiles are largely coming from the corporate industry such as market analysts, entrepreneurs, input and equipment suppliers , and philanthro-capitalists not even mentioning farmers once.

Having no farmer in sight, IRC even imposes registration fees for the participants of Php 46,000.00 or $810 further marginalizing and robbing farmers of their right to participate in the affairs of rice production and rice science in general.

Corporations with patents on rice varieties will use the IRC as a platform to promote their proprietary seeds making farmers dependent on a limited selection of expensive seeds. In return farmers lose their traditional rights to save, exchange, and share seeds, ultimately undermining food sovereignty and local food security.

Moreover, these same corporations shall definitely use IRC to promote their so-called “sustainability” initiatives while in reality profiteering from the climate crisis. Such claims of these sustainability initiatives pale in comparison with regards to the damages that they have been doing by still maintaining the status quo of chemical intensive rice farming.

The current status and cluster of corporate interest that IRC holds today has no chance in solving world hunger let alone improving rice science. Its emphasis on profit driven agendas and corporate interests hindered the congress from addressing the root causes of global hunger

Its fixation on yield and economic gain, focusing more on market-oriented solutions than sustainable and farmer-centric ones, already revealed its lack of comprehensiveness in approaching world hunger.

Food Sovereignty and Farmer Empowerment: The Path To Genuine Solutions

Food sovereignty and genuine farmer participation and leadership in charting the future of rice science and agriculture and food system in general is the key to solving the challenges in food insecurity and climate change. Hand in hand, making food sovereignty as the guiding principle to food security empowers farmers to be dependent and self-sustaining. By utilizing local resources, and being included in key roles in decision making, and co-knowledge production leads to sustainable agricultural practices, truly increased yields, and improved livelihoods.

Lest we forget, the United Nations itself declared 2019-2028 as “The Decade of Family Farming” with 80% of the world’s food coming from small farmers greatly excluded in this congress.