DAVAO CITY – Members of the Go Organic Mindanao movement refuted the statements made by Department of Agriculture official, Dr. Saturnina Halos, when she urged city councilors at a briefing last week to review the law that promotes organic agriculture because it can impede crop production in the country.
“It is unfortunate that Dr. Halos is misinformed”, said Dondon Florentino, National Coordinator for the Movement for the Advancement of Sustainable Agriculture (MASA) Philippines. Florentino pointed out that there is already a global consensus among international scientists and policymakers that organic agriculture can address local and global food security challenges.
MASA Philippines , a national movement of sustainable farming practitioners and advocates, is a member of the Go Organic Mindanao.
According to Florentino, the key towards ensuring food sustainability is to reorient local and global food systems towards greater social equity and sustainability. “While industrial farming has brought some benefits, it has done so at the expense of the environment and social equity.”, he said. “The shift to organic agriculture will reverse those trends, and could also tackle climate change”, he added, pointing out that conventional agriculture, together with deforestation and rangeland burning, are responsible for 30% of the CO2 and 90% of nitrous oxide emissions worldwide.
Another GOM member, the Third World Network (TWN) , also deplored the DA official’s recommendation. “ Such recommendations are contrary to DA Secretary Alcala’s agenda of promoting organic agriculture as the key to food productivity. We would check with Secretary Alcala, if he knows what his subordinate is blabbering about”, said Atty. Lee Aruelo, TWN Associate.
“Even the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has already come out in favour of organic agriculture because it can overcome the faults of conventional farming systems”, Aruelo declared.
In particular, Aruelo cited findings from the United Nations-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) which warned that the continued dependence on technological fixes- such as transgenic crops- is an approach unlikely to address persistent hunger and proverty.
The IASSTD is a World Bank-initiated international effort that evaluates the relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge,sciend and technology. It is an intergovernmental process , involving 110 countries, and under the co-sponsorship of international agencies like the FAO, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO and WHO.
According to Aruelo, the report showed that in general, the IAASTD found little evidence to support a conclusion that modern biotechnologies are well suited to meeting the needs of small-scale and subsistence farmers, particularly under the increasing unpredictable environmental and economic conditions that they face.
The report urges policymakers and scientists to re-think biotechnology as a cure for food sustainability. Among its recommendations are:
- Engage all stakeholders in open, informed, transparent and participatory debate about new and emerging biotechnologies.
- Use the precautionary approach in decision-making (e.g. as per the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety), which may entail prohibiting the transfer of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among countries that are centers of origin or of genetic diversity.
- Limit production of GMO plants in regions that have wild relatives and show botanical characteristics that could contaminate the gene pool. Build institutions to support social equity and sustainability
- Revise intellectual property laws to prevent misappropriation of Indigenous, women’s, and local people’s knowledge; establish IP rules that recognize farmers’ and independent researchers’ rights to save, exchange and cultivate seed, particularly for purposes of livelihood and/or public interest research.
- Strengthen the capacity of farmers, Indigenous peoples, vulnerable or marginalized communities and developing countries to engage effectively in international discussions and negotiations (for example, around intellectual property,bilateral, regional or global trade, climate change, environment, sustainable development, etc).
- Establish and enforce fair competition rules to reverse harmful effects of corporate concentration and vertical integration in the food and agriculture industry.
Aruelo reitierated GOM’s call for to stop the testing of genetically modified organisms nationwide. “ Instead of promoting GM crops, DA should take note of the IAASTD recommendations to better improve the sustainability of farming practices on the grassroots level”, she added.
Florentino, meanwhile called for more support for small farmers from the Aquino administration. “The passage of the Organic Agriculture Law is the right direction. The government should follow it up with continued support for small farmers by ensuring that they have secure access to land, seeds, water, information, credit, marketing structure and information. “, he said. (PR)