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Unity Statement Calling to Junk the Permit for Commercial Propagation of Golden Rice

August 9, 2021


Last July 21, 2021, the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines approved the permit for the commercial propagation of the highly contested GM yellow rice, called ‘Golden Rice’ (GR). We, the undersigned, vehemently condemn this rail-roaded approval and fully commit ourselves to relentless efforts to oppose the corporate capture of our food systems.

No more lies, Golden Rice!

Touted as the first GMO staple in the world, proponents of GM golden rice celebrate the approval of the commercial propagation as a victory, masquerading it as a humanitarian solution to malnutrition and riding on the promise to address vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in different parts of the globe, primarily, in the Global South. However, the truth is a far cry from the fairytale that they peddle. The hype they themselves created has backfired as golden rice has yet to resolve problems on efficacy, safety, private control and acceptance by the public. By the GR project’s own admission, the real challenges in solving malnutrition are “poverty, poor infrastructure, lack of education and awareness, and not the lack of existing technology,” which are issues that will not be addressed by the fraudulent GR.

From GM golden rice as a panacea to malnutrition, GR proponents now attempt to sell GR as a complementary strategy to address VAD to justify its commercial release. However, GR itself is counterintuitive to this goal. The primary sponsors of the GR project are profit-oriented transnational corporations that, time and time again, have proven to be anti-people and anti-farmer as evidenced in their attempts to monopolize the food systems. Case in point is the fact that the rights to Golden Rice are owned by the Swiss agro-chemical giant Syngenta, which was bought in 2016 by China state-owned corporation ChemChina.

History has witnessed how the corporate-led ventures in food systems to maximize profits such as the Green Revolutions in the Global South decimated local cultural knowledge, destroyed food sovereignty in farming systems, and poisoned our environment through intensive chemical farming. Like its Green Revolution, however, the International Rice Research Institute’s Gene Revolution thru GM Golden Rice will still fail the farmers and the millions of rice eaters in the world because its solution still rests on the notion that technology is the sole answer to food production problems. Hunger and malnutrition are caused by poverty and the peoples’ lack of access to agricultural resources such as land, seeds and their own technology that are appropriate to the conditions in their farms. Low yields from the fields are dictated by a number of factors that one or two technologies alone cannot address. Evidently, the approval of GR only serves as a means to further progress the Gene Revolution.

Procedures Not Followed

Barely a year has passed since the Philippine Rice Research Institute opened its 60-day public comment period as a necessary step towards ensuring participation and inclusivity from different stakeholders, DA-BPI, through its director, George Culaste, railroaded into an approval the permit for commercial propagation despite loud and lengthy opposition. Through the Joint Department Circular 1 of 2016 of the Department of Agriculture for the adoption of GM crops, GM technology must be assessed, reviewed, and approved by the different executive departments of the Philippine Government. However, even with multiple inquiries submitted by SGRN, no substantial review process and independent risk assessments to health, cultural and socio-economic impact were published or disseminated by DA-BPI. This is no surprise as food safety watchdogs have, repeatedly, warned the public about the general lack of transparency in the GR project.

To add to their shamelessness, DA-BPI also approved the permit for food and feed processing of BT Talong (Eggplant), another contested GM crop, on the same day. Globally, this is the case as regulations are being relaxed to enable the entry of genetically modified crops, and even gene-edited crops, even in the face of global concern, all in the name of profit. (READ: SGRN’s statement against the corporate capture of food).

GR: Unwanted, Unneeded

Small farmers, consumers, scientists, rural development workers, health advocates among others have been resisting GMOs for a long time, as it threatens to destroy the genetic resources that poor farmers are dependent upon for livelihood and even culture. Rice is a staple food in Asia, and to subject it to imprecise and potentially dangerous technology is irresponsible and just downright wrong. Advancing the corporate-led control on food systems would only mean the opposite of food security, which is already adversely affected during this worldwide pandemic. As stated by the United Nation’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, malnutrition is primarily caused by “lack of access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food due to poverty, inaccessibility, and the changing food production and consumption patterns.”

Clearly, the resources allocated to the GR project would better serve the people if it was used to support grassroots problems that address VAD. Countries where Golden Rice is targeted for commercialization such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia are mega-diverse countries, and have a number of plants that are rich in beta-carotene and are already available in the Asian consumers’ diet. The cultivation and consumption of natural Vitamin-A rich foods ensure the diversity of the farm, and the diet that even the impoverished citizens can easily access. This fact shows that GR’s entire premise is fraudulent, and exposes the entire project as an expensive and unnecessary expenditure.

The introduction of GR in the commercial sphere would also pose a threat, not only to the consumers, but also, to the economic situation of our farmers. GR will only further entrench harmful conventional farming practices introduced by agrochemical corporations. GR would shift the control of seeds from farmers to transnational corporations that leech billions of dollars from the public due to privatization schemes. Furthermore, farmers will face further economic crises due to intensifying importation. Coupled with GR, local farmers who will be forced to use these seeds or whose farms may become casualties of genetic contamination may find themselves in a worse economic crisis because consumers detest GR.

Defend Our Rice, Fight For Our Rights!

So why promote Golden Rice? In a period where the rejection of GMOs is gaining strength and momentum worldwide, and the evidence of the failures and negative impacts of the technology are piling up, the pro-GM industry is evidently desperate to create a fantasy image to clean up the image of GMOs. The Golden Rice — pegged as the solution to address the Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) problem in many developing countries — serves this purpose; for who dares resist a ‘humanitarian’ technology in the time of a global health crisis?

With the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) looming on the horizon, the intrusion of GM products via corporate control signals their intent to capture our food systems. With UNFSS’ partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF), a group dominated by TNCs, the food crisis all over the world will only worsen. The brazen approval of permits of GM crops all over the globe despite public opposition only proves that transnational corporations and their collaborators steer, in full steam, policies in preparation to UNFSS.

We, the undersigned, call on the Department of Agriculture — Bureau of Plant Industry to junk the permit for commercial propagation of Golden Rice and affirm our stance to oppose and stop all developments that will advance the gene revolution and the corporate capture of food systems.

With our food systems facing this unprecedented threat, we call on, not only our allies, but the general population, to defend our food systems, our farmers, our environment, and our future.

Golden Rice singatories -- organizations
Golden Rice singatories -- organizations
Golden Rice singatories -- organizations
Golden Rice singatories -- individuals
Golden Rice singatories -- individuals
Golden Rice singatories -- individuals
Golden Rice singatories -- individuals