Call for IRRI closure launched
For an in-depth profile of IRRI (International Rice Research Institute), including its close ties to GM corporations and long history of promotion of GMOs
PETITION CALLING FOR IRRI CLOSURE LAUNCHED IN LAGUNA
LAGUNA, Philippines A Statement signed by 100 people's organizations from all over Asia calling for the closure of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) was launched last July 17 at the very university hosting the institution.
The petition Statement, entitled 50 Years of IRRI is Enough! was presented during a forum on GMOs and Food Security: Trends and New Developments in Food and Agriculture at the College of Agriculture in the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna, where IRRI headquarters is located.
The petition Statement was spearheaded by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), GRAIN and the Asian Peasants Coalition (APC) for the People’s Year of Rice Action (YORA) that started on 4 April 2009 and will last until 4 April 2010 (4 April is the anniversary of IRRI). It was supported by MASIPAG and other local groups from RESIST! Agrochemical TNCs Network in the Philippines which have opposed IRRI and its technologies and policies for decades as well as by concerned people's organizations across Asia.
The Statement asserts that "[IRRI] played a critical role in the development and expansion of a model of agriculture that has left farmers and the poor at the mercy of a transnational agribusiness industry which is reaping obscene profits as people starve" and calls for the abolition of IRRI.
"This petition articulates how much damage IRRI has inflicted upon the small rice farmers and rice heritage of Asia, as evidenced by the unsustainable state of rice production and the abject poverty of rural rice communities today. This is why there is an unequivocal call for its closure. Better no IRRI than a bad one," says Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director of PAN AP.
The petition states: "Fifty years of IRRI is enough! The best thing IRRI can do for rice is to close down and give the seeds it has collected back to the farmers”¦. We need food systems based on small farmers' control over seeds, land, water, and energy. We need them now. Not another year of IRRI!"
"Governments are relying on GMOs to supposedly achieve food security," said Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG (Farmers and Scientist Partnership for Development of Agriculture), one of the main organizers of the forum. "However, we should learn from our experience with IRRI that modern technologies developed without the small farmers’ interests as the basis will ultimately fail. We are now seeing the same trend with IRRI's attempt with GM rice."
The forum itself was organized by MASIPAG and Third World Network (TWN), in cooperation with the College of Agriculture Student Council, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates Youth -College of Agriculture (NNARA Youth-CA) and Advocates for Science and Technology for the People-Southern Tagalog (AGHAM-ST).
It covered the general trends in the development of genetically modified crops in the world and the Philippines and was attended by more than 130 local students, faculty and researchers.
The Statement will be presented to IRRI and widely disseminated to relevant bodies and organizations. It is up on PAN AP's website at http://www.panap.net/irriclosure for those who wish to sign on.
For more details, please contact:
Clare Westwood/ Teoh Peir Yan
Save Our Rice Campaign
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP)
Tel: 60 4 657 0271 or 656 0381
Fax: 60 4 658 3960
50 Years of IRRI is Enough!
Next year will mark the International Rice Research Institute's (IRRI's) half-century of existence. No doubt it will be a grand day for the Institute that claims to "help feed almost half the world's population". IRRI is an international research institution established in 1960, entrusted by the United Nations to safeguard the diversity of the world's rice germplasm at its International Rice Genebank, and mandated to support the development of rice research within national agricultural research systems (NARS). It is the self-proclaimed "home of Green Revolution in Asia"; the central institution through which the Green Revolution model for rice expanded throughout Asia in the 1970s.
IRRI will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the midst of a global food crisis. The United Nation's Special Rapporteur on the right to food says the number of the world's hungry will reach 1 billion this year while at least 2.9 million people (and counting) have already died of hunger as of today and there is ample reason to believe that another rice crisis like the one of 2008 will soon strike again. IRRI cannot escape some responsibility for this situation. It played a critical role in the development and expansion of a model of agriculture that has left farmers and the poor at the mercy of a transnational agribusiness industry which is reaping obscene profits as people starve. Moreover, pesticide poisonings (estimated at 25 million occurrences involving agricultural workers per year), environmental and health calamities, soil degradation and major pest outbreaks, such as brown plant hopper infestations, continue to haunt farming communities across Asia because of the
increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides that IRRIs modern rice varieties require. After 50 years of IRRI, with poverty and food crises as rampant as ever in Asia, it is time to take a hard look at how this institution lives up to its mission "to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable".
What has IRRI accomplished over its 50 years?
IRRI has narrowed down genetic diversity through a top-down, scientist-led approach to rice seed development.
Thousands of traditional, local and farmer-bred varieties of rice and the rich diversity of farmer seed systems and knowledge that produced these varieties were wiped out by IRRI's Green Revolution. In exchange, farmers were promised a miracle, but this "miracle" quickly faded as large monocultures of the uniform, IRRI varieties were soon overrun by massive disease and pest outbreaks. Farmers then entered a ruinous pesticide cycle that continues to wreak devastation across Asia. Yields on the farm have never come close to the promised levels, and the overuse of fertilizers and the corresponding soil degradation are now eroding the limited yield gains that were realized. 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,
and irrigation. As a consequence, resource-poor farmers and landless peasants have been marginalised and removed from the entire food production process. While they are called "beneficiaries" of IRRI's technologies, in reality, they are victims.
Over the past half a century, not only has a rich diversity disappeared from the fields to be kept frozen at IRRI's genebank, but many of the traditional knowledge systems that once accompanied seed development on the ground have also been lost. IRRI's model of centralised research has been a dismal failure””it is high time for farmers to take seeds back into their hands.
IRRI has paved the way for corporations to take control of the rice seed supply.
IRRI's agribusiness ties go way back, but lately, with sources of public funding drying up, it has been getting more and more entwined with the giants of the transnational seed and pesticide industry. In 2000, IRRI formed a public-private partnership with Syngenta and several national research centres to develop and commercialise a genetically engineered (GE) rice with a high Vitamin A content, known as Golden Rice. The Golden Rice Network is coordinated by IRRI's Gerard Barry, who was formerly an employee of Monsanto. Although Vitamin A deficiency does exist in Asia, Golden Rice is an inappropriate and ineffective solution. There are already ample sources of Vitamin A in fruits and vegetables, which are plentiful and cheaply available throughout Asia. The problem thus requires political and social solutions, not a techno-fix, especially not one like genetic engineering that would introduce all kinds of risks to Asia's most important crop in food and agriculture.
In 2007, IRRI moved even further down the corporate path when it announced its intentions to form a Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium. IRRI plans to charge private companies an annual fee to be part of the Consortium, which will provide them with privileged access to IRRI's breeding material. Details of which seed companies are part of the consortium have yet to be released.
Then, in March 2009, IRRI announced a research collaboration with US-based DuPont, the world's second largest seed company and owner of Pioneer Hi-bred International, to develop and commercialise new hybrid rice lines under the Scientific Know-How and Exchange Program (SKEP). The program establishes a new model for public-private sector collaboration in which products of their research””derived in one way or another from access to the genebank that IRRI holds in trust for the world””can be controlled exclusively by a private company. The partnership will give DuPont privileged access to IRRI's hybrid rice breeding lines, while IRRI will gain access to DuPont's lab equipment and its field stations. Such deals with transnational seed/pesticide corporations not only erode IRRI's mandate for public research, they also effectively propel corporate control over seeds and the entire rice farming system.
IRRI and its corporate partners continue to stubbornly pursue hybrid rice even though it has not only failed to provide farmers in Asia with the promised high yields, but has also been shown to increase problems with pests and diseases, encourage the use of more chemical fertilizers and pesticides, have poor eating/taste quality, and reduce incomes of farmers. Complete crop failures are not uncommon with hybrid rice either. The only reason why hybrid rice is thriving is because it is being relentlessly marketed by seed corporations seeking to take over Asia’s rice seed supply, with the help of IRRI and governments in Asia which subsidize and promote hybrid varieties. In truth, the seed corporations are only interested in hybrid rice because it prevents farmers from saving seeds and forces them to buy new seeds every year. A further motive is that hybrid rice is a step towards the introduction of GE rice. The benefits of this technology are clearly for corporations not farmers.
Farmer seed systems and community conservation can do wonders for food security if we would only support them and let them thrive. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people across Asia will be holding celebrations, rallies and forums for the People's Year of Rice Action (YORA) from 4 April 2009 to 4 April 2010 on the theme: Rice for Life and Livelihood! YORA will culminate on 4 April 2010 on IRRI’s 50th anniversary with the call: 50 Years of IRRI is Enough! 50 years of Green Revolution, yet our food systems are in crisis with poverty and hunger rising across Asia. New technologies and modern varieties are clearly not the answer. The best thing IRRI can do for rice is to close down and give the seeds it has collected back to the farmers.
We need food systems based on small farmers' control over seeds, land, water, and energy.
We need them now. Not another year of IRRI.
1 August 2009
We endorse this statement in support of and in solidarity with the millions of small farmers and landless peasants across Asia who continue to suffer the malady that is the Green Revolution.
1. AGHAM (Advocates Of Science And Technology For The People), Philippines
2. AGRA (Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement), Indonesia
3. AMGL (Alliance of Peasants in Central Luzon), Philippines
4. AMIHAN (National Federation of Peasant Women), Philippines
5. ANPFa (All Nepal Peasants' Federation), Nepal
6. ANWA (All Nepal Women Association), Nepal
7. APC (Asian Peasants Coalition)
8. APIT-TAKO (Alliance of Peasants in Cordillera), Philippines
9. APM (Alliance of People’s Movement), India
10. APMM (Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants)
11. APRN (Asia Pacific Research Network)
12. APVVU (Federation of Agricultural Workers, Marginal Farmers, Fisher Folk and Forest Workers), India
13. APWLD (Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development), Thailand
14. ARPAN (Association for Rural Planning & Action), India
15. BAFLF (Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labor Federation), Bangladesh
16. BALU (Bangladesh Agricultural Labour Union), Bangladesh
17. BARCIK (Bangladesh Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge), Bangladesh
18. BBS (Bangladesh Bhumiheen Samity), Bangladesh
19. Birmarck Ramu Group - Papua New Guinea
20. BKF (Bangladesh Krishok Federation), Bangladesh
21. BKS (Bangladesh Kishani Sabha), Bangladesh
22. BRDRS (Balochistan Rural Devlopment & Research Society), Pakistan
23. BUFFALO (Bukidnon Free Farmers Labour Organization), Philippines
24. CAWI (Coalition of Agricultural Workers International)
25. CHRD (Centre for Human Rights and Development), Mongolia
26. Consumers Korea, Korea
27. CPA (Cordillera Peoples Alliance), Philippines
28. CPSHR (Canada-Philippines Solidarity For Human Rights), Canada
29. DAGAMI (Farmers Association in Isablea), Philippines
30. DANGGAYAN-Cagayan Valley, Philippines
31. Dekada '80 Movement, Philippines
32. DRCSC (Development Research Communication and Services Centre), India
33. Earth Island Institute-Philippines, Philippines
34. EARWG (East Asia Rice Working Group)
35. FAD (Foundation of Agricultural Development), Mongolia
36. FADC (Federation of Farmers in Davao City), Philippines
37. FARDEC (Farmers Development Center) Inc., Philippines
38. FIFA (Federation of Iloilo Farmers Association), Philippines
39. GABRIELA (General Assembly Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action ), Philippines
40. GITA PERTIWI, Indonesia
42. HUMABOL (Alliance of Farmers in Bohol), Philippines
43. IFTOP (Indian Federation of Toiling Peasants), India
44. ILPS (International League of Peoples’ Struggle), Philippines
45. India FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Watch, India
46. KASAMA-Bukidnon, Philippines
47. KASAMA-TK (Peasants Alliance in Southern Tagalog), Philippines
48. KAUGMAON, Philippines
49. KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas), Philippines
50. KMP-Bikol, Philippines
51. KMP-Cebu, Philippines
52. KMP-Negros, Philippines
53. KRAPAVIS (Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan), India
54. KUDUMBAM LEISA Network, India
55. LIVING FARMS, India
56. LOK SANJH FOUNDATION, Pakistan
57. MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura; Farmer-Scientist
Partnership for Development), Philippines
58. MONLAR (Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform), Sri Lanka
59. NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL WORKERS FORUM, India
60. NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS, India
61. NATIONAL CENTER FOR LABOUR, India
62. National Farmers Assembly, Pakistan
63. Nayakrishi Andolon (New Agricultural Movement), Bangladesh
64. NFSW (National Federation of Sugar Workers), Philippines
65. NNARA (National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates), Philippines
66. PACOS (Partners of Community Organisations) Trust, East Malaysia
67. PAMALAKAYA (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organization in the Philippines) , Philippines
68. PAN AP (Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific)
69. PCFS (People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty)
70. PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management)-Kenya, Kenya
71. Pesticide Action Network Philippines
72. Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes Inc., Philippines
73. PINAY (Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec), Canada
74. PUFAI (Parawagan Upland Farmers Association in.), Philippines
75. PUMALAG (Peoples’ Network against Liberalization of Agriculture), Philippines
76. RESIST (Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical TNCs) Network, Philippines
77. Roots for Equity, Pakistan
78. RRAFA (Foundation of Reclaiming Rural Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Action), Thailand
79. SADIA (Sarawak Dayak Iban Association), East Malaysia
80. SAHANIVASA, India
81. SASAMAG (Sandigan Samahang Magsasaka), Philippines
82. SEACON (Southeast Asian Council for Food Security & Fair Trade)
83. SEARICE (Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment), Philippines
84. SENTRA (Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo), Philippines
85. SEVA (Society for Equitable Voluntary Actions), India
86. SHISUK (Shikha Shastha Unnayan Karyakram), Bangladesh
87. SIBAT (Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Philippines
88. South Asian Peasant Coalition, Regional
89. SRED (Society for Rural Education and Development), India
90. STOP-EX (Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation), Philippines
91. SUSDEN (Sustainable Development Network), Malaysia
92. Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights), Philippines
93. TENAGANITA, Malaysia
94. THANAL, India
95. TNDWM (Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement), India
96. TNWF (Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum), India
97. Transnational Information Exchange, Regional
98. UBINIG (Unnayan Bikalper Nitinirdharoni Gobeshona/ Policy Research for Development Alternatives), Bangladesh
99. UMA (National Federation of Agricultural Workers Union), Philippines
100. Vikalpani National Women Federation, Sri Lanka
 IRRI website
 IRRI website
 For more information, visit www.panap.net/yora
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) is one of five regional centres of PAN, a global network which aims to eliminate the harm caused by pesticides and promote biodiversity-based ecological agriculture. It is committed to the empowerment of people especially women, agricultural workers, peasants and indigenous farmers. The Save Our Rice Campaign was launched in 2003 by PAN AP with its network partners in Asia in recognition of the critical role of rice, the world’s most important and political crop being the staple food of half its population. The foundation of the Campaign is the "Five Pillars of Rice Wisdom": (1) Rice Culture, (2) Community Wisdom, (3) Biodiversity-based Ecological Agriculture, (4) Safe Food and (5) Food Sovereignty. The Campaign is dedicated to saving traditional local rice, small rice farmers, rice lands and the rice heritage of Asia through defending and advancing the cultural and food sovereignty of the grassroots and opposing the powerful
threats to rice.