Neocolonialism and the Failed Rice Revolution

September 20
5PM Manila | 2:30PM Delhi | 10AM Nairobi | 11AM Rome

Without a doubt, farmers are inseparable from seeds and resources such as land, knowledge and the environment. Farmers rights entail that such access, ownership and/or effective control over productive resources be recognized and implemented at all times for farmers to be able to produce food for the people, and to realize the farmers; enormous contribution to food security and development.

However, since the 1960s, the Green Revolution program by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has effectively shifted the control of seeds from farmers to corporations through different schemes leading to the alienation of farmers to agriculture, and the dispossession of their rights to resources. This year is getting grim with Bill Gates and giant agrochem corporations hijacking the global public agenda thru the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). Bill Gates’ push to “develop new technologies, trust the market, and put in place policies so that corporations can make it all happen faster” is effectively being translated into public policies affecting farmers’ rights and the food systems catering profit for the corporations. Using billions of profits squeezed from small farmers and the working peoples to further corporate interests, they are effectively using humanitarian actions thru philanthropy as backdrop for their schemes.

To illustrate, the process is being chaired by Agnes Kalibata, former head of Bill Gates-funded Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). As the FSS discussions revolve around Five Action Tracks, these are likewise chaired by several representatives who has ties with the big corporations. For instance, the 1st action track is being chaired by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) established also by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with seed funding coming from USAID. GAIN has been in partnership with HarvestPlus for the commercialization of biofortified crops. And the primary leverage to ensure that corporations will get a firm hold on the rice sector is to ensure that Golden Rice gets approved by lackey governments by repressing the voices of small farmers and the marginalized.

Deliberate attempts to introduce GM crops in the name of food security and increased nutrition/biofortification are underway despite peoples’ protests. The controversial genetically modified (GM) Golden Rice, has surfaced again with the Philippines Rice Research Institute rushing through the commercial clearance despite popular opposition to GR not only in the Philippines but also in Bangladesh, Indonesia and India. In the Philippines, the Bureau of Plant Industry, Department of Agriculture, issued the biosafety permit for commercial propagation of the genetically engineered golden rice on 21 July 2021. While 2023 is the target year for Golden Rice to be commercially available, this has come earlier given the full support that it gets from Bill Gates, the International Rice Research Institute and the Department of Agriculture thru Philrice, who for the longest time has been ‘marketing’ the said product despite ongoing protests questioning the regulatory process. Similar actions are being taken in Bangladesh to ensure that Golden Rice will be commercialized. Surprisingly, in Bangladesh, such a controversial decision by the Philippines authorities is seen by some as a step to be followed by the Bangladeshi regulatory authorities. Yet, over the last 20 years, there have been many protests against the Golden Rice worldwide, particularly in the Philippines and Bangladesh amidst concerns about its safety and efficacy.

As in most of Asian countries, legal and policy frameworks are being relaxed not only to accommodate GM crops but also gene edited crops thru New Plant Breeding Techniques. These, along with other high tech yet simplistic and band-aid solutions to agriculture under the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, are being pushed by corporations ready to make a killing out of hunger, even during these pandemic times. Approval process and/or food standards are favorable in the introduction of GM crops such as what is happening in New Zealand. In Japan the push for the adoption of crops created thru New Plane Breeding Techniques by distributing gene-edited tomato seedlings threatening biodiversity and human health is also underway, with the government deciding not to regulate it at all. In India, IRRI is establishing new centers and carrying with it the Green Revolution mantra threatening farmers, consumers and the environment.

The decision on what to grow, what to eat, what technology to use are being dominated and captured by huge multinational corporations, with Bill Gates at the helm in pushing for Golden Rice and the corporate agenda.

Join us in unmasking the role of Bill Gates on the corporate capture of the UNFSS, with Golden Rice in focus. Through the discussion, resolutions for the Peoples’ Declaration and Action Plan for just, sustainable, healthy and sustainable food systems will be proposed in contribution to the Global Peoples Summit on Food Systems on September 21-23, 2021.

Organized by the Stop Golden Rice! Network Asia, People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty, and A Growing Culture.

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