Sustainable farming, not GMOs, answer to productivity issues – Green Action PH

Filipino palay farmer. Photo courtesy of
Filipino palay farmer. Photo courtesy of

MANILA  – Green Action PH lauds the Supreme Court (SC) ruling to permanently stop the field testing of the controversial Bt Talong and voiding the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order (AO) No. 8, series of 2002, last December 8, 2015. The SC upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals in May 2013 which granted the Writ of Kalikasan to Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) and other petitioners.

“This is a big victory for farmers, consumers, local producers and scientists advocating sustainable agriculture and a blow to pro-GMO sectors and biotechnology groups supported and funded by large agri-chemical transnational corporations (TNCs) controlling the seeds the farm inputs industry,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Chairperson Rafael Mariano.

“This important case, while environmental in nature, upholds the Filipino peoples’ right to health, safe food and environment,” said Mariano.

“The SC ruling is a welcome development especially in light of the growing concerns on the contribution of conventional chemical farming to climate change with the increasing use of agri-chemicals. Despite claims that GMO commercialization in the country will reduce pesticides use, it has in fact increased according to farmers’ experience. Farmers complain of its effects on biodiversity and on their health and incomes”, says Mr. Shen Maglinte, spokesperson of Green Action PH and Deputy Executive Director of Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT, Inc.)

Research-based evidence show how the adoption of Bt Corn and eventually other strains of the GMO corn by Filipino farmers led them to incur bigger debts and drove them to deeper poverty with many of them losing their rights to their lands.

Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG National Coordinator cites the research done by MASIPAG with IBON Foundation published in 2013 – “Socio-economic Impacts of Genetically Modified Corn in the Philippines, where 166 small corn farmers were interviewed through focus group discussion in 12 case areas across the country.

“In all the 12 case areas, farmers have incurred negative returns and most of them are indebted to their financier-traders”, shared Dr. Medina.

“Other than indebtedness (net-loss in incomes), small corn farmers also suffered loss of ownership of their lands and control over their seeds, food insecurity from loss of biodiversity including heavy soil erosion, and, threats to health. Over time, small corn farmers said they have to put in additional sacks of fertilizers to maintain yields, and likewise, new weeds and pests resistant to the GMO corn have infested their GM crops forcing them to apply more and more pesticides”, added Medina.

Two other studies, “Food Security and Farmer Empowerment: A Study on the Impacts of Farmer-led Sustainable Agriculture in the Philippines” by MASIPAG, and “Green Works: The Viability of Organic Farming in the Philippines by IBON Foundation provided ample evidence how small organic farmers achieved sustainable rice yields, and in time, food security and sustainable incomes.

“The basic practices of sustainable farming technologies would be much more helpful to farmers as these are least costly, environmentally friendly and healthy”, said Mr. Maglinte.

“Basically, poor crop yield and disease-prone crops is caused by poor soil fertility especially ones that turned acidic after years of being saturated with chemical fertilizers or being overused without substantive replenishment of organic matter, necessary nutrients and micro elements. Poor seed quality is also one contributing factor especially ones that are not ecologically nurtured and improved. Hybrid seeds are not steady with yield declining over time unless you feed the crops with synthetic chemicals”, further explains Maglinte.

Multi-cropping in place of mono-cropping

Mono-cropping, a common practice to achieve high yield to meet market demands, renders the crop highly vulnerable to pest infestation. With a single crop, pest could not find other crops to feed on and thus concentrate on preying on the single crop with great economic damage and loses as a result. Using a large amount of pesticides to control the infestation only worsens the situation as farmers would have to spend more buying pesticides and its residues contaminates the soil and nearby water systems.

Mono-cropping of GM Corn has led to infestation of banded leaf and sheath blight (BLSB) on 9,688 hectares of corn farms in North Cotabato in 2011. The disease was traced to the no-till farming due to the incessant use of Roundup herbicide. Corn farmers have been advised to go back to deep ploughing – a sustainable agriculture practice abandoned by farmers with the use of round-up ready GM Corn, according to the MASIPAG study.

“Farmers should practice crop diversification instead”, says Maglinte. “They should reinvigorate the health of the soil by stopping chemical fertilizer use. They should substitute this instead with bio-fertilizer, putting more organic matter into the soil by decomposing farm wastes and residues such as leaves, animal wastes available in the area. Planting of leguminous crops like mungbean, cowpeas improves soil fertility as their root system has features and capacities of storing and fixing these nitrogen from the atmosphere and brings these back to the soil. Crop diversification provides pest with varieties of habitation, with some crops with repellent properties warding off harmful pests and increase the mix population of good and bad insects. The prey-predator relationship of insects is enhanced.”

Sustainable agriculture, not Bt Talong

“Eggplants are one the most common crops of the country that can grow almost anywhere we often familiarly see even in most household front and backyards. In vegetable cultivation, it’s better to plant other crops side by side with eggplants so that pest need not focus on eggplants alone. Simple bio-sprays, healthy soil, good locally-improved seeds, bio-fertilizers are just the basic elements needed to grow crops such as eggplant. Hence, creating a GMO Talong or eggplant (Bt Talong) is grossly unnecessary to produce good harvest as many practitioners of organic farming could prove” shared Maglinte.

“Instead of investing time, knowledge and money on research and development for GMOs, our scientists, the DA and other agencies involved in research and development in agriculture should instead channel their efforts to enhance sustainable agriculture practices in the country especially organic farming which is the viable long-term option for food security, improved and revitalized bio-diversity, better health and nutrition for Filipinos and improved livelihood and incomes for the millions of small Filipino farmers”, Maglinte said. []


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