Eugenio Geraldo is a 51-year old farmer from Tomigbong, San Luis in Malitbog, in the province of Bukidnon. He is married and has six children. He started farming as early as 1971 and farming has remained his source of livelihood when he got married until the present. Among the crops he plants are corn, vegetables, fruits, bananas and rice.

In 1999 he decided to overhaul the way he farms, and decided to go organic and do away with the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.  He also became a farmer plant breeder with the help of MASIPAG and has since been developing his own varieties of rice and corn. The varieties he breeds are from traditional varieties which he eagerly shares with fellow farmers to, according to him, help them get crops that are better suited to local environmental conditions, higher yield, and pest resistance.

In fact, farming has been a way of life for the rest of his family including his parents and children. His 9-year old daughter became interested in rice breeding at a tender age and is now helping him with his rice breeding, while his other children also assist in taking care of their farm. 

Manong Eugenio has several lines of traditional corn varieties he uses to improve the corn he plants. Among these varieties are Tinigib, Kalimpos, Kasang, Señorita, Minantika, Katonga and Kasida. Majority of these are white corn but some are also coloured, such as black and red corn, which he cross-breeds to gain certain traits. He boasts that he managed to breed a corn variety that grows to a maximum height of less than 1.5 metres to withstand typhoons and strong winds.

Being very protective and proud of his the seeds he has carefully bred in the past few years, his main concern as an organic farmer is contamination from GMOs. In 2013, Greenpeace released a report showing that white corn in the Philippines is already contaminated with genetically modified varieties (RR corn and Bt corn by Monsanto). What is even alarming is farmers are unknowingly planting genetically modified white corn sold by another company (Pioneer Hi-bred) tolerant to round-up herbicide – little do they know that this corn variety is a hybrid, and is tolerant to the herbicide.   

For Manong Eugenio, this is the reason why he brought samples of his corn breeding lines to the Diversity Fair and People’s Forum on Ecological Agriculture in Cagayan de Oro City for testing.  He brought around 5 samples which included Inday and Mindagat (white corn) and a sample from a neighbour’s farm which he called “sexy.” While the test was underway, he said “I really have to make sure my breeding lines are not yet contaminated since I want to continue being an organic farmer and produce only organic corn. What if my seeds are already contaminated? Who can I report this to and who will be liable?”.

After a few minutes, the test strips showed that all of the samples are negative, except one was positive.  But to our surprise Manong Eugenio smiled and was not disappointed by the results.  That’s when he told us that the sample that turned out positive was from his neighbour who was planting what they called “sige-sige”, the genetically modified white corn being sold by Pioneer Hi-Bred. Manong Eugenio’s farm is located in a secluded area around 1 to 2 kilometres from his neighbour, who, like other farmers, do not know that what they are planting are actually genetically modified corn varieties. With a renewed conviction that his seeds are still not contaminated, he told us he will do his best to inform other farmers about the risks of GMOs, so that they would stop planting them. He wants to continue protecting his heirloom varieties of corn. 

The Philippine’s National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 enacted the promotion and development of organic agriculture in the Philippines and yet, despite the clear threats of GMOs to organic agriculture due to contamination, planting and approval of GMOs for importation continues. For farmers like Mang Eugenio, they face an uncertain future and a default disadvantage. This is because contamination comes from chemical/conventional agriculture that uses GMOs and agro-chemicals to organic agriculture systems, instead of the other way around. 

This is why our government should keep true to its intention to pursue organic and ecological agriculture, and do away with farming that harms our farms, our health, and further contributes to climate change.

Our farmers need your help to protect our country's crop and food diversity. Sign up now.

Photos © Greenpeace / Daniel Ocampo

Daniel Ocampo is a campaigner for Sustainable Agriculture at Greenpeace Southeast Asia based in the Philippines.