Farmer-scientist group joins nationwide protest against IRRI
MASIPAg, 11 April 2010
The International Rice Research Institute did not provide relief from farmers' woes, instead created layers upon layers of burden. IRRI's rice technology caters only a few wealthy farmers, agricultural suppliers and multinational corporations in agriculture. It is very ironic that the small farmers, for whom IRRI claims to serve did not benefit from its advances. On the contrary, it has become a servant to the interests of corporations in agriculture.
The Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) will stage simultaneous mass actions in all major islands come April 12, as the International Rice Research Institute marks its 50th anniversary this month.
More than 200 MASIPAG farmers coming from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will join the nation-wide protest coordinated by the Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical TNCs (RESIST) at IRRI, Los BaÃ±os, Laguna the world's premiere institution on rice research. In the Visayas region a total of 300 farmers will mobilize at the front of the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod, Negros Occidental. Another contingent will also mobilize at the front of the Department of Agriculture Region 6 Office in Iloilo on April 13. In Mindanao, farmers will hold a rekorida (mobile announcement) against IRRI at North Cotabato and will culminate at the front of the regional office of the Department of Agriculture. A petition letter on IRRI's immediate closure was also circulated nation-wide, gathering more than 3,000
signatures from farmers.
"The need for the immediate closure of IRRI is a must because it has relinquished its task in promoting and protecting the interests of the rice farmers." said Dr Chito Medina, National Coordinator of Masipag.
Way back in 1985, MASIPAG was created as an alternative program to farmers who fell victim to IRRI's Green Revolution program. The Green Revolution is IRRI's program in increasing rice yield through high yielding varieties and modern means such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, farmers who have been recipients of the said technology was pushed more into debt and poverty due to the very high cost of inputs. Associated also to the Green Revolution is the exposure of farmers to poisonous chemicals, loss of biodiversity and traditional seeds, legitimization of corporate control in
agriculture among others.
"The need for an alternative is imperative because during the rice conference in 1985, the recommendations of the farmers to improve agriculture was almost put to waste because of the inaction of IRRI and then Ministry of Agriculture. We have resorted to create a network involving farmers, scientists and support organizations that opted to realise those recommendations," said Perfecto 'Ka Pecs' Vicente, farmer breeder of MASIPAG.
Since then MASIPAG has focused to develop technologies that suits farmers' needs and capacity and has done away with IRRI varieties. MASIPAG has trained farmers to breed and select rice varieties that will suit the conditions of their locations and produce fertilizers and other inputs from on-farm resources. To date, MASIPAG has collected more than one thousand traditional varieties and has also developed another thousand Masipag farmer bred lines.
"We should continue to oppose and expose IRRIs agenda to the farmers. IRRI must be closed because farmers did not benefit from it. For 50 years, our lives has not improved. More of our fellow farmers have become impoverished than before. IRRIs promise to feed the hungry is an outright lie" said Rodolfo Oray, MASIPAG farmer from Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Last friday, MASIPAG held its 2nd Conference on Rice Issues where farmers, scientist and NGOs tackled new threats in agriculture. They declared that in order to survive in the coming years, we have to do away with the type of agriculture that is business-oriented, industrial, pollutive and capital-intensive. Apart from rice breeding, MASIPAG is also engaged in food security programs, sustainable agriculture and farmer trainings.
On IRRI's 50th anniversary, our call:
50 years of IRRI is Enough! IRRI Out Now!
No To Genetically Modified Rice!
No To Green Revolution, No To Gene Revolution!
Forward Farmer's Rights to Seeds, Land and Technology!
No to Corporate Control in Agriculture!
Forward Farmer-Led Sustainable Agriculture!