A Hindrance in the Achievement of Genuine Food Security – updates from the peasant movement of the Philippines

On its 63rd year since the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) establishment in the Philippines, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) registers the urgent need to #ShutdownIRRI and to once and for all let the farmers lead our way to genuine food security and food sovereignty. 

“For six decades, IRRI has been in criminal collaborations with big agrochemical corporations, as well as Marcos Sr. in the past, in a bid to solve hunger and poverty in Asia. Contrary to its mandate, what IRRI did is to serve as the research arm of these big agrochemical corporations in turning the food and environmental crisis into their businesses.” said MASIPAG farmer chairwoman Virginia Nazareno.

Established in  April 4,1960, the Filipino masses, especially the Filipino farmers will never forget the crimes committed by IRRI when it proliferated their “miracle rice,” among other technologies, during the Green and Gene Revolutions that contributed significantly to a myriad of problems including hunger and poverty in the country. Moreover, their unholy alliance which started with the Marcos dictatorship at that time through MASAGANA 99 strengthened their operation in the country in exchange for the Filipino people’s welfare. 

“When IRRI’s miracle rice IR8 was introduced and proliferated in the Philippines by 1968, it didn’t take long for the environment to punish everyone due to IR8’s highly unsustainable and chemical intensive cultivation. By 1971, the country had witnessed one of the massive crop failures in history brought by a wave of Tungro virus enabled by IRRI’s frequent and heavier applications of pesticides resulting in pest resistance and infestations. Soil and bodies of water were also contaminated because of it while farmers suffer from pesticide poisoning” added Nazareno.

From 1970 to 1981, real farm income went down from P672 per hectare to only P324 leaving farmers deeper in poverty than ever. On the other hand, Marcos’ government extension agents were reported to have collected and burned stocks of traditional rice seeds of peasant communities, forcing farmers to use IRRI’s IR8 miracle rice. By 1981, 98% of rice crops in the country consisted solely of IRRI’s IR8 miracle rice- the once more than 4000 traditional rice varieties of the Philippines were systematically replaced by the so-called ‘miracle rice’ of IRRI by the Marcos administration. 

IRRI’s power has become so pervasive and perverse that it can easily quash any suggestion for alternative and genuine pro-Filipino rice technologies since its establishment. IRRI even managed to sleep in the same bed with the Marcos dictatorship that Marcos gave IRRI immunity to Philippine law through Presidential Decree (PD)1620. Thus farmers and even IRRI employees who have found themselves afflicted with dreadful diseases contracted while working in IRRI and the families of those who died from such diseases and the workers who wanted to file complaints of unfair labor practices find themselves barred at the onset of PD 1620. 

“IRRI appears to be a public institution–hence its projects as an unquestioned public interest institution, but it is not. While IRRI is not a for profit organization, their research donors include government foundations and business corporations. It has tremendous power to influence the direction of agricultural research but it lacks public accountability.” said MASIPAG national coordinator Alfie Pulumbarit.

“With the purpose of furthering the green revolution agenda to countries already suffering in multiple crises facilitated by it, one of the funding mechanisms of IRRI designates the donors, who are mostly agrochemical corporations, to individual research centers for specific purposes called commissioned research. This means that funds provided by these agrochemical corporations are predetermined with specific commercializable activities and result in detrimental effects to the farmers and the environment.” added Pulumbarit. 

Today, only four agrochemical corporations namely Syngenta-Chemchina, Bayer-Monsanto, BASF, and Corteva dominate the global agriculture market. Spearheading the dominant yet failing industrialized food and agriculture that we know today, these five agrochemical corporations would not be able to forward their corporate agenda without the aid of IRRI. For 63 years, IRRI has been criminally legitimizing and masking these agrochemical corporations as the messiahs for food insecurity by being their research and development arms. 

“With IRRI currently pushing the so-called “silver bullet” to malnutrition that is GM Golden Rice in the Philippines and Bangladesh with Syngenta as its patent holder, and its “climate-smart” rice varieties with Bayer, unnecessary and corporate-led farm digitalization among others, IRRI has once again proven its role as one of the harbinger of famine and farmers’ demise in the world, more so the guarantors of profit for the wealthiest agrochemical corporations” added Pulumbarit. 

“IRRI may sanitize and manipulate the dark history of the Green Revolution and their crimes committed to the Filipino people by appealing to “science” that clearly only serves the agenda of the wealthy few, but they can never mend the growing food insecurity and hunger of the people. It will only get worse, not unless we shut down IRRI and genuinely support our local farmers and agriculture.” ended Pulumbarit. 

For more than thirty years, MASIPAG along with the Filipino people has been actively advocating for farmer empowerment through farmers’ sovereignty over food, land, technology and seeds. With its founding members consisting of scientists and farmers who first hand experienced the damage of IRRI’s scheme of corporatizing agriculture during the Green Revolution, the farmer-scientist network is in full resolve to liberate agriculture to the claws of big agrochemical corporations and transform it to a farmer-led agriculture and pro-people food system anchored in the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty while achieving genuine food security. 


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Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) was founded at a time of great political upheaval and broad mass movement against the tyranny and abuses of the Marcos dictatorship. Hundreds of peasant leaders and land reform advocates from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao gathered during the historic founding of KMP on July 24, 1985. After thirty five years, KMP remains as the largest national democratic mass organization of peasants in the Philippines.

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