Negrenses rally to preseve the country's organic farming capital

Feature story - August 19, 2009
Around 400 farmers and members of church and civic groups trooped today to the Negros Occidental provincial capitol to press members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to uphold Provincial Ordinance 007, which bans the entry of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and secure the future of Negros as the organic farming capital of the Philippines.

Greenpeace volunteers unfurl a banner during a protest in front of the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol to press members of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan (SP) to uphold the ban on GMOs. Greenpeace is encouraging the Provincial Council to look into real solutions like organic farming, instead of unreliable, unproven techno fixes like agrochemicals and GMOs, to address food security and safeguard public health.

Greenpeace put up two doors signifying an organic, GMO-free Negros (Green) and a GMO-contaminated future (Black), and requested members of the SP to take a stand and pass through the door that signifies their position.

Negros Occidental pioneered the ban on GMOs when it passed the ordinance, also called the “Safeguard Against Genetically Modified Organisms,” in 2007. The province, along with Negros Oriental, has been putting measures into place to turn Negros into an organic food island. Last April, the local government upheld the ban by rejecting shipments of illegal GMO corn at the capital’s port in Bacolod City.

This prompted GMO producing companies to field lobby groups to challenge the ordinance.  The provincial government reiterated that it is maintaining the ban.  Last month, however, anti-organic farming parties were able to sway the SP into holding hearings to reconsider the ordinance.

"It is now time for members of the provincial council to show their support for a future of agriculture that provides real solutions to food security and does not depend on unreliable, unproven techno fixes such as agrochemicals and GMOs" said Daniel M. Ocampo, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture campaigner. "We are calling on the SP to look into lasting solutions that provide income and growth for the province without compromising the health of people and the environment."

Organic farmers in Negros are looking towards the SP to uphold the ban protecting their means of livelihood – and their way of life – from contamination. “We are spending less on materials to get the same yield of crop when using organic means rather than the chemicals that some entities are pushing,” Jose Winston Cordoba of the Canaan Farmers Association (CFA) said in Ilonggo, his native tongue.  “We, and especially our children, are also safe from harmful chemicals when there are no GMOs,” added Arturo Artucilla, also a board member of CFA, an organization of grassroots farmers in the Municipality of Magallon in Negros Occidental.

Greenpeace has documented projects on millions of farms in more than 50 countries around the world, and findings reveal that switching to sustainable farming methods increases harvests by an average of 73% == showing that the world’s poor can feed themselves by using cheap, locally-available technologies that will not damage the environment.

 

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