SEARICE: Promote indigenous technology, not GMOs

An NGO says farmers have enough indigenous technology to sustain our food needs

WORLD FOOD DAY EVENT. SEARICE's seed fair and organic tiangge at the Church of the Risen Lord in UP Diliman. Photo by Karen Liao/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – A non-government organization on Tuesday, October 16, urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to prioritize Filipino farmers and organic farming practices instead of chemical-based agriculture and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including Golden Rice. (READ: Golden Rice: The next GMO battleground)

In a statement, the Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) called on the government to focus on funding, resources and technical support for farmers instead of chemically engineered breeding methods such as hybrid rice production.

The position added another opposing voice to the ongoing debate concerning the production and distribution of GMO-crops in the Philippines amid the country’s struggle towards rice self-sufficiency, a critical food security issue.

“Our farmers have enough local varieties that can supply our food and crop needs. All they need is legislation and appropriate technical and post-harvest support that will operationalize our commitment to support the Farmers Right, so the sector that has fed us since the advent of agriculture will have the capacity to be partners in our economic development,” SEARICE said. (READ: PH allots P500-M to support hybrid rice farmers)

The statement was released at the launch of SEARICE’s seed fair and organic tiangge at the Church of the Risen Lord in UP Diliman, organized in celebration of World Food Day and the National Year of Rice.

SEARICE Policy and Communications Coordinator Atty Mario Maderazo said the event advocates support for farmers and for the conservation and management use of plant genetic resources (PGRs), also known as binhi or farmer-bred seeds.

ADVOCACY GROUPS. Representatives from SEARICE, Pambansang Kilusan ng  Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Kasarian-Kalayaan (SARILAYA),  Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly (YSDA) and Third World Network (TWN). Photo by Karen Liao/Rappler

The organization in its press release also called for a moratorium on the commercialization of Bt Corn and Golden Rice and legislation that follows the International Treaty for Plant Generic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The treaty targets measures that “will ensure the protection of traditional knowledge of farmers and indigenous communities,” including organic farming practices. 

Maderazo clarified, however, that SEARICE is not entirely opposed to technological development in agriculture.

“We just want to stress that we are not against advances in technology. In fact, tulungan natin ang mga farmers (let us help the farmers),” he said. “‘Yung technology na alam nila (the technology they know), they should be enhanced, they should be improved. And not really na magki-create ka ng (And not really to create) another system that will supplant this traditional system which has kept our diversity in agricultural crops.”

Seed fair and organic tiangge 

The launch of the seed fair and organic tiangge, themed “A Clean, Safe, Healthy and Eco-Sustainable Food System,” gathered at least 50 participants including farmers and farmer-technicians from Luzon and Mindanao.

In her welcome message, SEARICE Executive Director Nori Ignacio said the event aims to promote farmers’ rights and the use of organic seed varieties.

SEED EXCHANGE. Farmer-bred rice varieties prepared for the fair. Photo by Karen Liao/Rappler

Mahalaga ang role na ginagampanan ng ating magigiting na magsasaka (The role fulfilled by our noble farmers is important),” Ignacio said in her welcome message. “Sa mga magsasaka, para sa inyo ang pagtitipon na ito. (To the farmers, this gathering is for you.)”

Participants came from as far as Pangasinan, Sorsogon and Davao del Norte. Many of them had also participated in participatory plant breeding, taught at farmer field schools that were implemented by SEARICE in their communities.

The highlight of the event was the seed fair, where farmers were asked to distribute and exchange samples of their rice seed varieties. Also included were round-table discussions on agricultural issues and farmers’ concerns, as well as a display of organic products from various provinces, sold by the Food Bowl Market (FBM).

Representatives of the following groups also shared their positions on farmers’ rights and organic farming: Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Kasarian-Kalayaan (SARILAYA), Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly (YSDA) and Third World Network (TWN). – Rappler.com