On IRRI’s 56th anniversary, farmer-scientist group MASIPAG called on the institution to immediately shut down its operations in the Philippines as it failed miserably to address the impacts of climate change resulting to deeper hunger and poverty. Last Friday, farmers coming from North Cotabato and nearby provinces in Mindanao held a barricade in Kidapawan City to call for rice subsidy as most of the farms were affected by the drought brought about by #El_Nino. Instead of addressing the farmers concerns, the protest was met by gunfire, with three farmers confirmed dead and scores of farmers, and possibly women and children, wounded.
“IRRI for 56 years fave failed the Filipinos! For many decades it has lured the farmers in using modern but high-input rice varieties that will supposedly ease the hunger of farmers. It did not even contented itself with its first Green Revolution, it is now promoting a Second Green Revolution purpotedly to address the effects of climate change on rice. But none of these grandiose projects has really lifted the lives and livelihood of the farmers. The Filipino farmers are still among the poorest and hungry among Asia” said Dr Chito Medina, national Coordinator of farmer-scientist group MASIPAG.
MASIPAG calls for the immediate closure of IRRI stating that the first Green Revolution wreaked havoc among the Filipino farmers. Thru the Green Revolution, farmers incurred huge amouts of debts as IRRI shifted the farmers sustainable agriculture practices into dependency to expensive external inputs such as modern seeds and chemical fertilizers. The small farmers were left behind, as huge agrochemical TNCs and local businessmen gained and reaped the profit from the sale of seeds and other off-farm inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. With the Green Revolution, the farmers became entrapped with the high-cost and chemical-intensive agriculture system made worse by the abuse of loan sharks and huge rice cartels. In the end, the farmers who have been feeding the nation are food and financially poor.
“Erosion of rice genetic diversity was drastic, with rice varieties in Philippines totaling to more than 4,000 were wiped-out and replaced by a few high-input varieties with narrow genetic bases. Rice varieties that have been part of the Filipino culture, whose traits that we as a country may benefit in this worsening climate, are now secured and controlled by IRRI. They are the ones who are profiting and gaining from our rice varieties” said Carlito Seguiro, MASIPAG’s Chairperson and farmer-leader in the province of Negros.