PRESS RELEASE | #IRRIOutNow: IRRI’s Double Game of Hunger and Seed Privatization

April 4, 2024

by MASIPAG National Office

In the 64th year since the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) establishment, farmers, scientists, and civil society groups and organizations along with Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) convened in the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna to once again register the #IRRIOutNow call and let our farmers lead the way toward genuine food security and food sovereignty. 

Dubbed as Bahanggunian hinggil sa mga isyu at laban sa Binhi or BINHI Conference, the seed conference was attended by more than 80 individuals and organizations aimed to discuss the state of farmers’ seed system in the country. Amid the corporate and policy threats that our farmers and their seeds are facing specifically with the ongoing amendments to the Seed Industry Development Act and IRRI’s persistence to completely erase it with its collaborations with the biggest corporate players in the seed industry, MASIPAG and its allies remain steadfast in defending our farmers’ rights to seeds by immediately calling the shutting down of IRRI and the further strengthening and genuine recognition of our farmers’ seed system.

For 64 years, IRRI has been in criminal collaboration with big agrochemical corporations proliferating dependence in market-oriented, chemical and capital-intensive agriculture – displacing farmers from their important role in our food system. IRRI’s criminal legacy cannot be underscored furthered by its involvement in Marcos Sr.’s Masagana 99 program in the 1970s which effectively ruined our agriculture, environment, and genetic resources that up until now has not recovered to effectively feed the Filipino people” said Alfie Pulumbarit, MASIPAG national coordinator

This push to further erode farmers rights to seed continues as IRRI has been hypocritically championing the so-called free access to it through its “seed without borders initiative”, a regional seed policy agreement that “speeds up the distribution of corporate patented modern rice varieties across countries in Asia. 

It is very hypocritical of IRRI to champion this so-called cause in seed access while collaborating with agrochemical corporations who have histories of criminalizing farmers rightfully practicing seed commoning and seed exchange such as Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta” added Pulumbarit. 

Bayer, who has a breeding collaboration with IRRI under the delusional vision of “science for the better” has also sued four Missouri farmers last year over their practice of seed saving and exchanging. Moreover, Bayer was also facing hundreds of thousands of lawsuits concerning the health and environmental damages of their herbicide glyphosate in the US and was IRRI’s major sponsor when it launched its 6th International Rice Congress here in the Philippines. Likewise, Syngenta who is the sole commercial patent holder of the genetically modified Golden Rice that IRRI developed along with the Department of Agriculture, etc. was probed via Writ of Kalikasan by the Supreme Court last year due to its high threat to contaminate the country’s local rice biodiversity consisting of traditional and farmer-bred rice varieties. 

Under the guise of facilitating the free exchange of seeds, IRRI seeks to further entrench the domination of agri-TNCs over the agricultural sector. This initiative purportedly aimed at addressing global food insecurity, serves as a tool for the imperialist and corporate powers to tighten their grip on seeds and lands of the world, depriving farmers of their rightful access to the means of production,” said Pulumbarit. 

In the 64th year of IRRI, MASIPAG calls on the immediate shutting down of IRRI and instead, the adoption of alternative approaches grounded in the principles of farmer-led agroecology, food sovereignty, and social justice. The farmer-led network calls on everyone to resist the neoliberal onslaught on agriculture spearheaded by IRRI and its corporate collaborators and reclaim control over our food and agriculture system – ensuring these systems serve the needs of people and the planet, rather than the profits of a privileged few. 

MASIPAG calls to stand in solidarity with farmers and agricultural communities around the world in the collective struggle against the neoliberal nightmare imposed upon us by IRRI and its corporate ilk. The network believes that another world is possible, one in which food is produced and distributed in a manner that respects the dignity and autonomy of all. 

For 39 years, MASIPAG along with the Filipino people has been actively advocating for farmer empowerment through 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 resolve in working with the broad agriculture sector in liberating agriculture from the claws of big agrochemical corporations and facilitate a transformative, farmer-led agriculture and pro-people food system anchored in the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty while achieving genuine food security.