A very significant event happened this year, that is for those who believe that farming or agriculture must not only provide healthy and abundant food for everyone but must give substantial benefits to the farmers who are the producers.
This was what I believed was the overarching message of this year’s 9th National Organic Agriculture Congress held in Madaue City, in Cebu last Nov 6-8. With the theme “Food Security and Business Opportunity”, I wanted to believe that the “business opportunity” discussed here is more favorable to the small farmers than the big traders and multinationals. The small farmers after all are at the core of the Philippine agricultural landscape.
My thoughts are centered on the output of the congress where resolutions were passed and approved overwhelmingly without objection. Among the approved resolutions were; the wider promotion of the OA Act and its Implementing Rules; a call to the DILG to ensure that Technical Committees are organized in all LGUs; strong support be given to small and marginal farmers and fisherfolks including agrarian reform beneficiaries in terms of production, processing and marketing; more investment by government in equipment and facilities; establishment of organic markets in Metro Manila and other regional centers; for BSWM to increase commercialization of organic agricultural inputs and other methods of soil nutrition enhancement; for the AMAS to upscale organic market by giving benefits to producers and consumers; to include other forms of guaranty systems more appropriate and accessible to farmers like the Participatory Guarantee System; to harmonize our Philippine National Organic Standards with the Asian Regional Organic standards and other international standards and explore recognition of our certifying bodies internationally; more public investment in research and development with end in view of creating organic farmer entrepreneurs; more aggressive promotion by integrating in school curriculum to further inculcate to students the values and principles of OA; that DA set-up mechanisms that ensure active, broader, equitable and substantial participation from farmers / private stakeholders in NOACs and other localized conferences on organic agriculture; That BPI, Institute Plant Breeding and other government plant breeding institutions to produce and breed open pollinated varieties of plants and support community based seed producers; and other resolutions (twenty-four all in all) that if implemented will surely bring organic agriculture in a level never before attained here in our country.
The most debated resolution which took almost two hours to resolve was on GMOs. The approved resolution stated, “That a GMO- FREE country policy be continuously pushed and advocated knowing that the use of GMO goes against the OAA and that a moratorium in the field testing of GMOs should be implemented and a body formed to investigate the impact of GMO in the country”. I actively participated in the discussion of this topic and so with other pro and con GMO participants. Although oneformer DA official wanted to stress that GMO and Organic Agriculture can co-exist, the voting showed that the over 1,800 participants in that congress believed it isn’t so. When the votes were taken, there was overwhelming support, with no objection, and only two abstained.
Now with bated breath, I wait for the NOAB to inform the public about this development. And it is more than one month since the historic sentiment of the organic agriculture practicing farmers, traders, consumers and advocates was expressed but until now we still have to hear from them. The resolution was furnished to the Secretaries of Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry and the National Organic Agriculture Board.
Christmas is just around the corner, but the bells that will be ringingthat is most welcome to the ears of not only those who attended the congress but also the bulk of small farmers, fisherfolks, traders and consumers who believe in organic agriculture is the public announcement of this resolution passed during the 9th NOAC. It is a strong sentiment for a sustainable agriculture and healthy food production for the generations to come in the Philippines. It is a strong call for everyone to take notice of, including those who promote GMOs (in and outside of government) here in our country.
I ask, WHERE IS THE RESOLUTION NOW? I hope it will not be forgotten in the “catacombs of broken dreams”.
Leonardo Avila is the former Officer-in-charge of the City Agriculturist Office since July of 2010 and is appointed by Mayor Sara Z. Duterte as a Fishery Officer with full power and authority to enforce all existing fishery ordinances, laws, rules and regulations since October 2011.