1.IRRI told to get out of Asia!
2.SOUTH INDIA CULMINATES WORA!!
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.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=296
1.IRRI told to get out of Asia!
Week of Rice Action culminated in street protests
By Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano
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 government," Belen said.
Meanwhile, Ka Tatcio of Pagkakaisa at Ugnayan ng Magbubukid sa Laguna (PUMALAG) or Unity and Solidarity of Laguna Farmers said that it was only IRRI and its cohorts that are being kept alive by misleading and even fraudulent scientific researches that only serve to keep corporate control over agriculture, while the majority of peoples are barely able to survive.
"U.S. imperialism is today's no. 1 killer!!! It is our very lives that are at stake in the TNCs drive to own rice. This happening not only here in the Philippines but all over the world. We must unite and fight at all levels!" he said.
More than 100 farmers, led by Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) or Alliance of Farmers in Central Luzon, had similar sentiments and pushed for the dismantling or abolition of PhilRice, IRRI’s local arm in the Philippines.
As a result of the mass action, a PhilRice representative came out and invited the farmers to schedule a dialogue to further discuss their concerns with the rice research institute.
Meanwhile, more than 200 farmers of KMP held a protest action in front of the DA, primarily to pressure the agency to stop the commercialization of GE rice in the Philippines.
Last week, the network Resistance and Solidarity Against Agro-chemical TNCs (RESIST) held a dialogue with agriculture officials, wherein they were promised that the importation of the genetically-contaminated rice Liberty Link 601, found in several supermarkets last year, has been discontinued.
In solidarity, international WORA participants from Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, U.S., Indonesia and Thailand joined the street protests that marked the campaign's culmination.
2.SOUTH INDIA CULMINATES WORA!!
By Clare Westwood
4 April 2007 Bhubaneswar, India - The Week of Rice Action 2007 culminated over a three-day stretch from 2 to 4 April 2007 in two states in India.
Delegates from PAN AP and WORA anchor organizations in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka joined Indian delegates to culminate WORA in West Bengal and Orissa.
The West Bengal event was a seminar entitled "Protecting Rice as Our Identity", held in the village of Atghara with almost 400 farmers, villagers and several prominent speakers including Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher from the UK and two ministers from the state Mr. Naren Dey, Minister for Agriculture and Dr. Murtaja Hussain, Minister for Agriculture Marketing and Relief. Organic rice farmers were recognized in a formal ceremony at the same event. The highlight was the people’s pledge at the end: "We will not grow GE rice in our villages! We will grow traditional rice varieties only! We will not give up our rice lands for commercial development!" The event was jointly organized by Thanal, SEVA (Society for Equitable Voluntary Action) and PAN AP.
On the 4th of April, 65 people's organizations culminated WORA in Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa at the National Workshop on Rice organized by Living Farms, Thanal and PAN AP.
"There couldn’t be a more appropriate location to culminate WORA as Orissa is recognized as the place of the origin of rice in India. Also 1,727 villages have been declared GM free here," said Devinder Sharma, activist stalwart in the lead session. "Rather than China, it is most likely to be India where GE rice will be approved for commercialization. Therefore, India should be the focus of regional concern in the fight against GE."
Other notable speakers such as Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher (Econexus, UK), Farhad Mazhar (UBINIG, Bangladesh), and Ardhendu S. Chatterjee (DRSC, West Bengal) spoke on the threats of GE rice and threats to biodiversity-based ecological agriculture and rice ecosystems. Leading activists from various states such as Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu, Chhatisgarh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala and Orissa also presented on the status of rice cultivation in their states.
"West Bengal is relevant because of the recent Singur and Nandigram issues where thousands of rice farming communities have been abused and displaced because their lands have been grabbed for industrialisation," explained Usha S. of Thanal, "Orissa is also facing the loss of fertile rice lands to mining, rapid industrialization and special economic zones."
Devinder Sharma adds, "The focus of India today is the takeover of village rice lands and moving people out of agriculture. By the year 2015, it is estimated that 400 million rural people (worldwide) will quit agriculture. We are going to witness a massive displacement of people."
The participants of the workshop collectively dialogued on the issues of rice land takeover and GE rice in the country and in the region, and came up with concrete strategies to save rice and small rice farmers starting with Orissa. For example, there were immediate commitments by 13 organizations to create GE-free villages within the next three months. "This workshop is very important in bringing together so many NGOs working with the grassroots. The participants are already raving about the seminar which gave them a good understanding of not just the political situation, but also the scientific aspect of genetic engineering. This information, sharing and strategizing is invaluable to our struggle. Everyone is simply motivated!" says Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, a farmers’ network in Orissa who also laments the loss of 30,000 traditional rice varieties from the state.
"Unite for Rice, Unite for Asia!" called Clare Westwood of PAN AP, the lead organizer of WORA 2007 to all the NGOs present. "WORA is not an end unto itself; it is a Beginning Asia must band together to win this war. We must persevere; we must never give up."
She also announced that to date, about 650,000 signatures had been collected for the People’s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia by all the 13 WORA countries. Delegates from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India proudly presented their signature banners at the close of the workshop to the delight of all present.
Did Asia need WORA? "Yes," says Farhad Mazhar without hesitation. "WORA has been effective in raising public consciousness all over Asia about the threats to rice, rice farmers and rice culture as well as strengthening the people's movement; the people's power. We can no longer rely on governments to protect us it is time we, the people, took responsibility to save agriculture and the rice of Asia."
All culmination events have been extensively covered by the local press in West Bengal and Orissa.
The Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 brings together farmers, rural communities, and other sectors of society to celebrate and protect rice culture. To be officially launched on March 13 in Bangladesh, the main WORA events will take place in 13 countries across Asia from March 29 to April 4. Culminating in India and the Philippines, WORA will be an unprecedented mobilization of Asians "Celebrating and Protecting Rice Culture"! A key feature of WORA will be its one-million signature campaign calling on policy-makers to take immediate steps to save the rice of Asia.
WORA is organised by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) and its partner organisations in thirteen countries in the region. Anyone interested in being a part of WORA 2007 can log on to the WORA page at www.panap.net
Contact at PAN AP:
Home Page: www.panap.net
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) is a global network working to eliminate the human and environmental harm caused by pesticides and to promote biodiversity based ecological agriculture. PAN Asia and the Pacific is committed to the empowerment of people especially women, agricultural workers, peasant and indigenous farmers. We are dedicated to protect the safety and health of people, and the environment from pesticide use and genetic engineering. We believe in a people-centered, pro-women development through food sovereignty, ecological agriculture and sustainable lifestyles.