Farmers' protest marks launch of IRRI's 50th anniversary
Posted: 19 November 2009
On 17 November 2009, members of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP), Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development (MASIPAG), Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP), Resistance and Solidarity against Agrochemical TNCs (RESIST Network) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) led a protest action in front of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines. About 200 protesters, mostly farmers from different parts of the country, gathered in front of the Institute's main gate to call for its abolition.
Their message was simple: "IRRI was hailed for sparking the Green Revolution in 1966 with the invention of IR8. However, while it claims that this agricultural breakthrough rescued millions of Asians from famine, poverty in rural Asia had in fact worsened only a few decades into the Green Revolution. Over one bilion people are hungry these days. The Green Revolution robbed Asia’s rice producers and brought on even greater burdens such as debts, declining yields, health problems, a ruined ecosystem, and loss of biodiversity.”
The IRRI management was not interested to hear what the protesters had to say. In the old days, IRRI's former Director General Klaus Lampe would at least invite protesters inside the IRRI compound for a dialogue, but this time IRRI mobilised a large team of local police officers to greet the protestors outside of its gate.
Asked what they were doing, cordoning off the protests, the police chief said: “We're just here to protect you.” “From what?” asked the farmers.
On the same day, IRRI issued a press release with its Director General, Robert Zeigler saying “The plight of over 1 billion people stricken with poverty, 70% of whom live in Asia and depend on rice as their staple food, is our driving force for our research . . . In fifty years, IRRI’s high-yielding rice varieties and other technologies, plus extensive training, have contributed to the doubling of average world rice yields. This has averted famine and prevented millions of hectares of natural ecosystems being converted to farmland.” Zeigler's calling for a “New Green Revolution” to resolve the current food crisis.
The protesting groups don't buy it. “IRRI’s so-called solution to the crisis does not differ much from its earlier approach. It is obvious that IRRI has refused to recognize the failure of the first Green Revolution to lift rice farmers from poverty. In reality, it is using the current food crisis as an opportunity to push for the promotion of hybrid and GE rice,” they said.
GRAIN went to the protest in solidarity with the farmers. Below is a photo essay of the event.