PhilRice field test center in Nueva Ecija. (Photo by AMGL)
Coinciding the 26th anniversary of PhilRice, more than 200 farmers protested in front of its field testing center in Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija province to call for the immediate stop of field testing of golden rice designed by agro-chem giant Syngenta. The farmers from Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya were led by the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon), Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development (Masipag) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The groups claimed that the genetically engineered rice variety that claims to be fortified with vitamin A is not guaranteed to be safe, threatens the local rice variety and Filipino farmers’ health and livelihood.
“Rice with vitamin A is not enough reason for its commercialization. It offers more danger than the benefit it claims. Vitamin A is not the main reason of hunger in the country but poverty caused by widespread landlessness, displacement and exploitation of foreign giant corporations such as Syngenta,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson.
“We should learn from the lesson of Marcos’ dictatorship’s Green Revolution that totally destroyed the natural environment of our farms. The agro-chemicals Marcos and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) promoted poisoned our farms and put our forefathers into further debt, consequently resulting landlessness. Now these Gene Revolution varieties are no different, trying to subjugate us so that agro-chem transnational corporations (TNCs) such as Syngenta could rake up super-profits, dictate our rice production and kill us with the possible diseases the golden rice could bring out,” he added.
The groups cooked rice and vegetables to show that food diversification or nutrition from varieties of food is better than rice fortified with vitamin A.
“The Aquino government, IRRI and PhilRice should be held responsible once this variety instigate a plague among the country’s population. We dare officials of IRRI, PhilRice and president Aquino to volunteer themselves as laboratory mice to consume golden rice for a significant period of time and also expose themselves on farms cultivated with the variety,” dared Canlas.
After the groups protested in front of PhilRice, they held a caravan to nearby towns to further express their opposition of the field testing of golden rice and warn the people of its dangers. As alternative to genetically modified organisms (GMO) rice varieties, the groups promoted organic farming as measure for sustainable agriculture, food security and freedom from diseases caused by agro-chemicals.
“We are being used as test animals for the agro-chem TNCs’ products. We should learn from the experiences of farmers from the different parts of the country and the world. GMOs such as the BT corn, GM (genetically modified) Soya, BT eggplant have caused havoc to crops, animals and people in other countries. The GM rice in US have been condemned by American farmers and European countries, Japan and Korea have banned importing US GM rice. Developed countries already know that they are harmful to their people and now the Aquino government is pushing with the field testing of golden rice? The president is definitely trying to kill us all with golden rice, but we should not allow that, we should all oppose golden rice and other genetically modified crops in our country as this is not an issue of farmers, but consumers as well,” Canlas said. #