Mindanao groups say ‘Yes’ to Ecological Agriculture

A nationwide campaign is underway to protect the country’s diversified food crops from GMO invasion and contamination

Press release - September 18, 2014
Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines— Today, various groups have expressed their full support to a new Greenpeace initiative that aims to promote and strengthen Ecological Agriculture in the Philippines. Representatives from the local government, farming groups, the Catholic church and other civil society organizations also called on Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to do away with plans to approve the genetically modified ‘Golden’ rice, and instead focus on programs that encourage organic and ecological agriculture.

“Representing a province that is mostly agricultural, I am fully supportive of establishing sustainable agricultural practices, especially since it would promote local farming methods and our indigenous produce, raising the livelihood of our farmers in the countryside,” said Representative Malou Acosta-Alba of the 1st district of Bukidnon. “As we are part of an interdependent web, we must strike a balance between achieving food security and environmental conservation.”

At the national launch of the environmental group’s Yes to Ecological Agriculture Diversity Fair, stakeholders discussed the current state of Philippine agriculture, now further threatened by the entry of more genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country, as approved and endorsed by the Department of Agriculture.  In particular, Greenpeace and other groups have expressed alarm over the introduction of the genetically modified ‘Golden’ Rice, created and marketed to  developing countries, like the Philippines, as a quick-fix solution to eradicate Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) among children and solve world hunger. Despite the hype and decades of research and development, there is still no scientific proof that ‘Golden’ Rice will indeed solve VAD. 

Aside from having no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs to human health, Greenpeace also stressed on GMOs’ inherent risks to the environment, citing cases of contamination [1] that threaten the country’s rich rice genetic diversity [2].

To counter this GMO invasion, Greenpeace has mounted a campaign, organizing diversity fairs in the coming months in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to promote Ecological Agriculture, a farming system that goes in harmony with nature to ensure good nutrition and food security among Filipinos. By not using harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that produce greenhouse gases, Ecological Agriculture helps in climate change mitigation.

During the diversity fair in Cagayan de Oro, farmers, community leaders, students and consumers all believe the importance of a diversified Filipino diet. They also expressed support for the full implementation of the National Organic Agriculture Act (RA 10068), that promotes ecological and natural processes to produce food that is nutritious, environmentally sound and economically viable for farmers. 

“The Philippines is naturally blessed with thousands of rice varieties. Filipino farmers are lucky to be able to do their own rice breeding to improve and diversify our rice varieties, making ‘Golden’ Rice unnecessary,” said Eugenio Geraldo, a farmer who belongs to the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) and a rice breeder from Malitbog, Bukidnon. 

“It’s time we focus and strengthen our Ecological Agriculture programs and empower Filipino farmers who have been working tirelessly to provide us with nutritious and safe food,” said Daniel M. Ocampo, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “It’s time for our government to do the same and do away with false solutions such as GMOs and chemical-based agriculture which do more harm than good to our farmers, our health and the environment”. 

The Greenpeace Yes to Ecological Agriculture Diversity Fair will run from September 19 to 20, 2014 at the Centrio Mall in Cagayan de Oro City.

Notes to editor:

[1] Globally, there is no commercially grown genetically modified rice yet, but several strains have already found its way into the food chain through contamination. Despite assurances from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and PhilRice that contamination of ‘Golden’ Rice is almost impossible, contamination from field testing of Bayer’s genetically modified rice such as LL601 happened in 2006 (http://www.saveourseeds.org/en/library/rice-ll601.html) and has led to more than a billion losses of exports for US farmers.  In China, several varieties of genetically modified rice have also found its way into farms and the food chain despite the decision of the government not to renew the biosafety permit for genetically modified rice (http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/08/china-pulls-plug-genetically-modified-rice-and-corn)  

[2] The Philippines is known to have an estimated 5000 to 10,000 varieties of rice.  This genetic diversity of rice is important since it serves as the foundation for breeding new varieties with desired traits such as resistance to pest, higher yield, good eating quality and tolerance to extreme weather and environmental conditions. 

For more information, please contact:

Daniel Ocampo, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, , 0917-8110469

Vigie Benosa-Llorin, Media Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, , 0917-8228793

Geonathan Barro, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), 0918-5599814