Food security amid a changing climate
MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos are no stranger to the effects of climate change.
According to the 2014 Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines ranks 7th among nations who suffer most from extreme weather events. Crops and aquatic resources will bear the "most devastating impact" of climate change, an April 2014 United Nations (UN) report said. The problem of hunger is expected to rise as the effects creep to all countries in the world.
To prevent this, according to Greenpeace, the scientific community needs to ensure that the threat of food insecurity brought by climate change will not materialize and risk the nutrition security – especially among children – by helping build a resilient agricultural sector in the Philippines. (READ: How climate change threatens our food security)
Climate change poses a big threat to food security, as food producers are the first to be affected by disasters. In Asia, almost 20 million hectares of rice are prone to flooding which often leads to millions-worth of lost profit and decrease in number of food resources.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) also acknowledges the threat of climate change to the farming sector. "Pinakamatinding hamon ang climate change para sa kagawaran," Undersecretary Fred Serrano said during a gathering of more than 400 farmers in IRRI. (Climate change is a big challenge for the department.)
Greenpeace International's Senior Scientist Dr. Janet Cotter said that one way to help farmers deal and ensure the future of rice is to develop rice varieties that can withstand extreme and changing climate conditions.
It is also important that farmers are educated with the right information on how to go about with farming despite the threat of climate change. Most often than not, they are not aware on the right type of rice variety to plant in particular climate conditions.
“Diversity holds the key to climate change resilient farming by providing an insurance policy against the impacts of extreme weather,” Cotter said.
In the Philippines, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) aims to empower farmers from all over the country as they are the "best resources" of the nation.
Rice self-suffiency, according to the IRRI, can be achieved by ensuring that the food producers have access and aware of the means on how to improve their farming.
The government, according to DA, is also in the process of implementing projects that will help prepare the agricultural sector against climate change.
By empowering farmers, they will not be doubly burdened by the effects of climate change and already existing socioeconomic problems – the sector is already suffering from high poverty incidence.
Stay organic, not GMOs
Meanwhile, Greenpeace maintains that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like the Golden Rice, genetically-engineered rice with added beta carotene from corn, is not an answer.
Compared to traditional breeding methods, the institute said that genetic modification's ability to include genes with useful traits into new rice varities is an advantage.
Greenpeace, however, maintains Golden Rice is marketed to developing countries as a "quick-fix solution" in ending Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) among children even without scientific proof. (READ: Why I support Golden Rice and Unmasking Golden Rice)
Greenpeace Philippines Ecological Agriculture Campaigner Daniel Ocampo said that "ecological agriculture," in which the natural resources are maximized, is a better alternative to GMOs since it ensures diversity in the diet that leads to healthier source of nutrients for people.
A study done by Fred Magdoff of the University of Vermont in 2007 found that the government's active support in this type of agriculture will help food producers - especially farmers in developing countries - in the challenges they face.
Organic farming, one of the main types of ecological farming, is promoted in the Philippines through the Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Act of 2010 which aims to “promote and help implement the practice of organic agriculture in the country.”
Instead of focusing on GMOs, stakeholders should just improve the already existing solutions to food insecurity and nutritional deficiencies such as food fortification, Vitamin A supplementation, and diet diversification.
"These solutions should be supported through policies that will enable farmers and the industry to pursue ecological agriculture instead of the illusion of GMOs, which will only divert resources away from solutions already available," Ocampo added. – Rappler.com
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