|Street protests as IRRI told "Get out of Asia!" (6/4/2007)|
1.IRRI told to get out of Asia!
EXTRACT: "We are telling IRRI to get lost, to get out and be with farmers and not TNCs like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer. We don't want GE crops, especially rice. Rice is so important, it is our own livelihood and food. It is based on our culture and common heritage. We can't allow IRRI to take over." - Sarojeni Rengam
NOTE: For more on the extraordinarily negative role of IRRI, see our profile: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=296
1.IRRI told to get out of Asia!
Laguna, Philippines --- "IRRI out of Asia!" This was the resounding call of more than 1,000 Filipino farmers that trooped in front of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters on April 3 to protest its 47th anniversary and to culminate the highly successful Asia-wide Week of Rice Action (WORA) led by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP).
Simultaneously, WORA culmination rallies by hundreds of farmers and several international participants were held in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA) office in Quezon City and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) office in the province of Nueva Ecija.
Farmers, farm workers, fisherfolk, and other rural peoples expressed collective anger over what they called imperialist control of agriculture, particularly rice. Rice is the staple food and source of livelihood for millions of farmers in Asia.
Men, women, and children alike exposed to the world the poverty, health and environmental destruction, cultural degradation, and over-all social exploitation wrought by chemical-dependent rice farming and genetically engineered rice. They blamed their increasingly desolate plight on the cruel collusion of agro-chemical transnational corporations (TNCs), subservient governments, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and imperialist-driven research institutions led by IRRI.
Carrying flags, placards, and rice winnowers painted with their various statements and demands such as "Our lands are not for sale!" "IRRI out of Asia!" "No to GE rice!" "Junk WTO!" and "Resist Agro-chemical TNCs!," farmers affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or Peasant Movement of the Philippines marched for more than five kilometers to reach the gates of IRRI.
Upon arriving, they held a noise barrage to symbolize the growing worldwide campaign to stop pseudo-rice research that is not based on sound science but on the corporate agenda to milk profits from millions of already impoverished farmers.
Sarojeni Rengam, PAN AP executive director, explained how IRRI, a U.S-created research institution, promoted the Green Revolution and started the cycle of pesticide poisoning and indebtedness among rice farmers around the world.
She also told of IRRI's ties with agro-chemical TNCs that are now introducing GE rice at the risk of uncontrolled health and environmental effects and guaranteed seed dependency.
"We are telling IRRI to get lost, to get out and be with farmers and not TNCs like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer. We don't want GE crops, especially rice. Rice is so important, it is our own livelihood and food. It is based on our culture and common heritage. We can't allow IRRI to take over," said Rengam.
She also denounced bio-piracy or the TNCs' attempt to claim as their own rice varieties that farmers have collectively developed for centuries, such as jasmine rice. "IRRI, shame on you!!!" she said, to the cheers and applause of farmers.
Rengam said that the WORA is part of PAN AP's long-standing efforts to support and link the people's fight for food sovereignty all over the world. "It is only through the people's resistance that we are able to stop this injustice," she enjoined the farmers.
Meanwhile, Jun Layosa, an ex-IRRI worker and president of BISSIG (Brotherhood of IRRI Support Services Group), related how Filipino farmers were duped and harassed into selling their lands to IRRI, only to become pesticides applicators that were later illegally retrenched.
"In the 1960s, before IRRI came, all farmers were able to plant what they wanted, and were able to use the seeds that their ancestors worked for. Now, everyone is completely dependent on costly and hazardous pesticides, and is fast becoming in danger of being reliant on GE seeds," Layosa said.
He also hailed the martyrdom of his fellow ex-IRRI workers who have died "exposing the anti-farmer agenda of IRRI." Seven of them have already succumbed to illnesses related to the long period of working with pesticides used by the research institute.
Aurelio "Ka Ure" Mercado, who worked at IRRI for 23 years, was also present at the rally despite liver and lung ailments that have weakened him. In a relatively better condition since his hospital confinement last year, the 62-year old Ka Ure said that he was happy to be able to participate in the WORA.
"Knowing that people are resisting IRRI all over the world strengthens my conviction that we will one day achieve justice," said Ka Ure.
Farmer leaders that hailed from the Southern Tagalog provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Quezon, Romblon, and Batangas also shared rice farming problems brought about by the Green Revolution, bio-piracy, genetic engineering, and neo-liberal globalization policies.
Fred Torres of Pagkakaisa at Lakas ng Magbubukid-Timog Katagalugan (PALAY-TK) or Unity and Strength of Farmers-Southern Tagalog said that rice farmers are up to their necks in debt because they cannot plant without buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He urged his fellow farmers not to buy these "IRRI products" that only allow capitalists and landlords to wallow in riches while they sink deeper into poverty.
Ato Belen of Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Batangas (SAMBAT) or Association of Batangas Farmers said that rice farmers are being forced to buy expensive inputs but their products are being bought cheaply by traders and being defeated at the market by cheap imports from developed countries such as the U.S. He complained that the WTO has made the Philippines, from a major rice exporter in the 1960s, into a major rice importer today.
"It is no wonder that rice farmers have not tasted an ounce of prosperity that were promised to us by the governmen