Farmers to PhilRice: Uphold Rice Science For and By Filipino Farmers, Stop Promoting Golden Rice and other Corporate-owned Technofix Solutions

November 7, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

On DA-PhilRice 38th founding anniversary, farmer-led network Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) calls to PhilRice to uphold genuine rice science by abandoning the path of corporate science and its technofix solutions, chemical-intensive agriculture, and capital-driven models in favor of the vibrant and resilient alternatives offered by peasant science and farmer-led agroecology. 

In the face of complex environmental challenges, it is imperative to recognize that corporate science and its technofix solutions are not the panacea they claim to be. The belief that we can genetically engineer our way out of hunger and ecological crises through corporate-led ventures and its highly top-down technological innovations alone is a fallacy that obscures the root causes of our environmental and hunger problems. 

For the past 38 years, PhilRice has worked with a lot of projects to “help” and “improve” rice farming and science for the Filipino farmers by collaborating with agrichemical corporations and pseudo public institutions like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), yet for the past 38 years, Filipino farmers remain one of the poorest and hungriest sector in the Philippines. From introducing unsustainable and highly costly terminator and chemically dependent hybrid rice seeds made by corporations, to now planting and feeding unwanted, unnecessary, and still chemical dependent and corporate patented genetically modified Golden Rice, PhilRice’s mission to improve rice science and rice farming for the Filipino people has been transformed into a platform of business venture for corporations where farmers bear the brunt of its unsustainable consequence, especially at this critical moment of climate and global economic crisis.

Last month, PhilRice collaborated with IRRI in hosting the so-called “International Rice Congress”. Primarily sponsored by one of the “big 4” agrochemical corporation Bayer that is responsible to the hundreds of thousands of herbicide poisoning around the world brought by their primary product Glyphosate, the International Rice Congress is an international platform for supposedly scientific rice-based food systems innovators where no farmers in the so-called international congress are in sight but instead corporations with their technofix solutions such as genetically modified crops and the business as usual chemical inputs is at the helm of the congress. 

Championed by corporate interests, technofix solutions tend to prioritize profit over sustainability. These approaches frequently involve short-term fixes that do not address the underlying issues. Indeed in the case of the so-called “silver bullet” to vitamin A deficiency- the genetically modified golden rice that PhilRice has been pushing for the past years, what it fails to acknowledge is the structural causes of vitamin A deficiency such as lack of access to safe, adequate, and nutritious food brought by poverty, conflict, and continuously high prices of basic commodities among others. Relying solely on corporate-driven science and technofix solutions, such as golden rice, leads to the creation of products and technologies that prioritize commercial gain, disregarding the long-term consequences for our planet and future generations. 

Instead of placing almost blind faith in technofix solutions and corporate science, PhilRice should and must adopt a holistic and sustainable approach to address our food, agricultural and environmental challenges. 38 years has been too long enough for us to be “business as usual” with corporate science and their unsustainable technofix solutions. 38 years is too long for farmers not being at the helm of rice science and rice farming in the country.

It is already an established wisdom that farmers themselves are at the frontlines of genetic conservation and on-farm innovation while at the same time securing food security and asserting food sovereignty for the longest time, it is high time for them to be acknowledged and given the center stage in navigating rice science and the entire trajectory of our Philippine agriculture. 

Rejecting golden rice, rejecting the illusion of technofix solutions and corporate science, we pave the way for genuine and lasting solutions. MASIPAG calls on everyone to stand united against the shortsightedness of these approaches and instead work towards a future where our actions nurture, rather than harm, the delicate balance and holistic growth between our food, our environment, our farmers and the entire Filipino people.