Farmers, critics turn to Web to fight ?Golden Rice?

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An alliance of farmers, ecological agriculture, and safe food advocates has opened an online petition to raise awareness on the dangers of Golden Rice, a genetically modified organism (GMO).

The online petition, accessible at standupforyourrice.org, takes the fight to the Internet against Golden Rice, which is being promoted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in partnership with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRICE) and supported by the Department of Agriculture, among others.

?The promotion of golden rice shows the continuing control by big corporations over the seeds of farmers, killing initiatives that nurture biodiversity in agriculture, and narrowing down our choices of Vitamin A-rich food,? said Rene Cerilla of Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA, National Confederation of Small Farmers? and Fishers? Organization).

Golden Rice is produced through the manipulation of the Asian rice variety by inserting the genes of maize and soil bacterium, supposedly to produce betacarotene and express Vitamin A, thr group said.

On the other hand, the creators and supporters boasts Golden Rice?s potential to address Vitamin A deficiency (VAD).

Among the donors to the Golden Rice project are Sygenta Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Rockefeller Foundation.

Unlike other genetically engineered crops that are tailored for producers, Golden Rice comes with a humanitarian approach aimed to improve the bad image of GMOs by offering an altruistic product for the poor, the critics claimed.

The activists said they are taking this as a condescending approach towards the poor.

?Golden Rice actually treats the poor as living experiments and makes their bodily integrity, their over-all lived experience matter less,? Pangging Santos of the women?s group, Sarilaya explained.

Citing the ban on GMOs in more than 60 countries, Sarilaya and other groups note the increasing recognition of the damaging and irreversible impacts of GMOs to health of humans and other species and the environment, including the country?s rich genetic pool of local, indigenous and traditional rice varieties.

Directed to DA secretary Proseso Alcala, the online petition demands that instead of promoting Golden Rice, the government should instead call for the promotion of ecological agriculture and safe food, especially as the country has adopted the Organic Agriculture Law in 2010.

As Shen Maglinte of the organic food producer group Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) remarks, ?We propose that a farmer-based sustainable production approach coupled with access of farmers to land resources be genuinely supported.?

?Vitamin A deficiency should not be seen as a separate problem on malnutrition that can be answered with simplistic and techno-fix solutions, but as a symptom of a worsening hunger and poverty crisis that need a more comprehensive approach,? Chito Medina of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG, Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development) pointed out.

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