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Groups slams Global Hybrid Rice Program

Groups slams Global Hybrid Rice Program

By Roda Gueta, contributor

Quezon City- In a joint statement today, the MASIPAG (Farmers and Scientist for Development of Agriculture), GRAIN (Genetic Resources Action International), KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines ) and APC (Asian Peasant Coalition), slams global hybrid rice program and call for the closure of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

The groups gathered more than forty (40) participants from ten (10) countries such as Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Ecuador and the Philippines, for a two-day regional workshop dubbed “Growing Resistance, Harnessing Diversity: a Regional Workshop on Hybrid Rice and Farmers’ Seed Alternative” from October 14 to 15, 2009 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City. The workshop aims to facilitate regional sharing of information, experience, analysis and strategies around hybrid rice from different local and national realities.

According to Wa Hailong from Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center Yunnan China (PEAC), “it is very alarming that hybrid rice is at a global scale. In March 2009, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) signed an agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on an international cooperation program for ‘breeding green super rice for regions in Africa and Asia with scant resources’. The $18 million program will breed 15 new rice varieties and promote and disseminate these hybrid rice seeds in target countries.”

“In February 2009, Pakistan and China signed an agreement for cooperation in the development of hybrid rice during a visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Beijing . A similar agreement on hybrid wheat was signed in June 2009. In early 2009, Venezuela and China signed an agreement for the development of hybrid rice production in the State of Barinas . Under the agreement, $8.5 million will be invested in an irrigation scheme that will allow 1,400 hectares to be planted with hybrid seeds of rice and maize, which will be developed under another $2.4 million seeds project led by the Chinese,” added Hailong.

But according to Vlady Rivera, a researcher from GRAIN, “Hybrid Rice in Asian countries failed to deliver its promise of higher yields and better income… There is a wide gap between what the government claims and what the farmers experience in the field… The increasing incidence of brown plant hopper infestation across Asia linked to widespread use of hybrid rice is another cause for alarm.”

“And the problem is not just hybrid rice. The very package of technology in which it is promoted, reinforce the same market-led industrial production which is at the core of the food crisis itself. Pushing hybrid rice as a solution simply aggravates the problem of food insecurity… With the food crisis, seed and agro-chemical companies are positioned to have greater profits and control over agricultural production. The impacts of this in local food security and people’s control of agricultural biodiversity are enormous, ‘added Rivera.

Danilo Ramos, APC and KMP secretary general, on the other hand stated that, “The Green Revolution introduced by IRRI caused the genetic erosion of traditional rice varieties (TRVs), poisoned people and the environment, and inflicted economic difficulties on small-scale farmers. It reduced farmers into a passive recipient of technology and disempowered them. In fact, the TRVs across Asia are under serious threat of extinction due to the so-called high yielding varieties (HYVs), hybrids, and genetically engineered (GE) rice being promoted and commercialized by profit driven agrochemical TNCs which intensifies monopoly of the rice seed.”

Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG national coordinator, supported Ramos’ claims. He added that the MASIPAG approach taken by its farmer-member provides hope in terms of building farmers’ capacities and self-reliance through the organization of farmers and farmer-led development, seed breeding, innovation, and experimentation.”

“Farmer seed systems and community conservation can do wonders for food security if we would only support them and let them flourish. Various forms of farmer-controlled seed conservation and breeding activities exist in many counties in Asia, like in Thailand and the Philippines where thousands of farmers are growing local rice varieties and improving them, under their own terms, methods and ways of farming. Sadly, these initiatives are not only ignored by formal research institutions and governments, but also side swept. No wonder that fifty (50) years of Green Revolution, yet our food systems are in crisis with poverty and hunger rising across Asia,” ended Medina .

“While IRRI maintains that one of its priorities is to “reduce poverty through improved and diversified rice-based systems”, its research continues to be oriented towards plantation-type monocultures based on a narrow diversity of “modern” rice varieties that only respond well to the heavy use of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. Resource-poor farmers and landless peasants have been marginalized and removed from the entire food production process. IRRI’s model of centralized research has been a dismal failure. The best thing IRRI can do is to close down and give the seeds it has taken away, back to the farmers,” Ramos stressed.

The groups are calling for IRRI’s closure which will have its grand 50th year on April 4, 2010 in the midst of a global food crisis. As of this writing, more than 6.2 million people have already died of hunger while over 1 billion people more are undernourished according to stopthehunger.com. #

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Donor countries on storm Ondoy victims told: No strings attach please

Donor countries on storm Ondoy victims told: No strings attach please

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said donor countries who gave financial assistance to the Philippine government for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy should not ask something in return for their cash donations, saying the situation should not be used as an opportunity and occasion to advance any kind of agenda.

“If donor countries want to help and they are sincere, that is very much welcome to the Filipino people and we will regard their respective efforts as expression of international solidarity. But if they are up for something big, let’s say big favors from the corrupt government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then forget it. No strings attach please,” said Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz in a press statement.

“We have to be brutally frank here and we believe it is a politically correct attitude in dealing with these cash aids foreign donors. These powerful foreign economies will not give cash without getting something big for their investments. That is the history of our master-slave relationship with the world’s economic giants,” added Corpuz.

The Pamalakaya information officer said most of the donor countries have anti-Filipino agenda like the European Union, the United States, Japan, Australia and China.

Corpuz said the US, which donated $ 100,000 or roughly P 47 million to flood victims, is hell bent in keeping the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and is strongly opposed to moves of the Philippine Senate to renegotiate or terminate the military pact. He said the US is also eyeing a bilateral free trade agreement with the Philippines similar to or even bigger in scope compared to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or Jpepa, which was approved by the Senate last year.

Corpuz said the European Union, which promised 2 million euro humanitarian assistance or P 140 million in total relief aid wants to enter a bilateral economic pact with the Philippines through the RP-EU Free Trade Agreement and is said to be interested in owning vast tracts of prime agricultural lands in the country and is reportedly urging lawmakers to purse Charter Change to eliminate the constitutional ban on 100 percent foreign ownership of land.

Pamalakaya said aside from Jpepa, Japan, which donated $ 220,000 for typhoon victims, is asking Malacanang’s permission to use 600,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Northern Luzon for bio-fuel production, while Australia, which promised 1 million Australian dollars or P 40 million in total relief aid, wants to clinch a bilateral economic and military agreement with the Philippines.

The group said China, which P 6.6 million in total donations given to Ondoy victims, is still pursuing the RP-China agreement which entails 13 sub agreements in agriculture and 6 sub-agreements in fisheries, aside from the continuation of the stalled NBN-ZTE deal and the $ 546 million North Rail Project.

On Tuesday, the massive flooding triggered by tropical storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana) has inflicted over P4.6 billion in damage, the National Disaster Coordinating Council in its partial damage assessment said. Infrastructure losses reached more than P1.5 billion while damage to agriculture amounted to about P882.525 million, the NDCC said in its latest situation report.

“It is a partial damage assessment definitely, even loss to, or opportunity loss of revenues for establishments you know, I mean, that alone would amount to hundreds of millions at the least a day,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. said in a briefing after the Cabinet Meeting at the NDCC headquarters.

A total of 1,872,036 persons or 319,881 families have been affected by the flooding, the NDCC said.Of this number, 74,695 families or 374,890 persons have taken refuge in 607 evacuation centers.

The death toll of 240 was 100 more than Monday’s assessment. Thirty seven people remained missing. “I think for casualties the increase will be not as great but the damage figures may increase,” Teodoro said.

“The difficulty is, let’s say in a province you can very well judge a totally or partially damaged house, the problem in Metro Manila is if you have to inventory the appliances and articles inside the house, that poses some difficulty so an accurate picture of damages cannot be had easily,” the defense chief said.#

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Pamalakaya backs Palawan execs call to include Kalayaan isles in baselines bill

Pamalakaya backs Palawan execs call to include Kalayaan isles in baselines bill

Local government officials of Palawan found an unlikely ally in the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) against the exclusion of Kalayaan group of islands from Congress baselines bill defining the country’s archipelagic and territorial waters.

“The Macapagal-Arroyo government deserves wholesale condemnation for violating and defying the Filipino people’s long-running historic claim to Kalayaan islands. This regime of greed reduced our rightful, legitimate and moral claims to Spratly to a regime of islands and this is national foul play,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader added: “Mrs. Arroyo and her company of hooligans are moving heaven and earth to remove the Kalayaan group of islands from the Philippine territory to facilitate the revival and provide the full blanket authority to the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking that would allow China to proceed with its biggest offshore mining escapade in Palawan and South China Sea.”

Pamalakaya said it is supporting the protest lodge by Palawan officials against the exclusion of Spratly group of islands in the baselines bill set to be approved by Congress next week. The militant group said the implication is not only limited to the local government officials claim to Malampaya, but to the entire claim of the Filipino people over the Kalayaan group of islands.

“The baselines bill which exclude Kalayaan group of islands is tantamount to treason to the highest order. The country’s sovereignty and territorial rights is over and above any kind of diplomatic relations and business ventures,” the group added.

According to Pamalakaya, once the baselines bill is approved with the exclusion of Spratly islands, the government will start renegotiating the stalled offshore mining project with China..

“The China National Offshore Oil Corporation will eventually set up gas pipelines from Palawan to mainland China once the potential reserves of 3.3 trillion cubic meters of gas are confirmed in the ongoing gas exploration. This is the immediate consequence of this baselines bill,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said the setting up of gas pipelines from Palawan to China will be the next big thing to happen under the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) since the transfer of gas can only be done through the construction of gas pipelines like in the case of the Malampaya gas pipeline project.

“That’s the next logical chapter of this highly detestable agreement between RP and China. China will put up its pipelines to complete the loot, and the Malacañang will just beg for alms in the form of taxes and other duties,” the group added.

Pamalakaya said his group’s fearless forecast in the next three years is that China will establish gas pipelines that would supply the energy sector of China, Malaysia and Singapore and that it would merely engaged in lease contract with the Philippine government for the use of 142,886 square kilometers encompassing Palawan and certain parts of the Spratly Islands being claimed by the Philippines over the last four decades.

Pamalakaya recalled last year the Chinese oil exploration vessel Nan Hai docked at Puerto Princesa City port to refuel after coming from a seismic operation in Southwest Palawan.

“Nam Hai 502 was in Palawan last year not only to conduct seismic operations because it is already confirmed that trillions of cubic meters of natural gas are found in the waters of Palawan and the Kalayaan group of Islands. The best kept secret there is that the Chinese oil explorers are seemingly engaged in mapping operations regarding the setting up of gas pipelines,” the group said.

The Pamalakaya added: “We were not born yesterday not to understand this geographical escapade of Chinese oil explorers. Once they explore, all aspects are considered from identification of gas deposits to how these deposits would be taken off and transferred to the home base of the oil exploration giant and their big-time clients in neighbor countries.” #

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