|Subject: Filipino rice farmers protest IRRI's 40th anniversary|
Hundreds of Filipino rice farmers protested against the Philippine-based International Rice Reseach Institute (IRRI), home of the 'Green Revolution', which was celebrating its 40th anniversary.
On the 3rd of April IRRI had to relocate its 40th birthday party due to the prescence of 700 demonstrators outside. There was a People's Forum critising the IRRI for its unaccountable working practices and discusions on the destructiveness of IRRI's much-flaunted Green Revolution which "caused massive loss of biological diversity in rice paddies throughout Asia". A torchlit march to IRRI ended in a vigil, with banners, chanting and public speaking. At midnight the birthday was welcomed in with flares, chants of "IRRI Out" and "No GMOs".
The next days events were also halted due to the threat of further actions. Birthday guests got up before dawn to move to the presidential palace and try to continue the event. They were closely followed by farmers, workers and who set off to participate at the birthday event in their own way. Protesters held up traffic outside the palace, chanted slogans, gave speeches, and had an IRRI die in. A highlight was a dance symbolizing the struggle of Philippino rice farmers. Banners read 'No Patents on Life, No Patents on Rice', 'No to genetic engin-IRRI-ng!', and 'Serve the People', with many others were in local Tagalog.
Meanwhile 3,000 Bangladeshis marched the streets of Dacca and other cities in Bangladesh to support the Philippine movement to close down IRRI.
The protesters slammed President Estrada's official support for hybrid rice being developed by IRRI, through the administration's program Agrikulturang MakaMASA. Though the yields of hybrid rice are supposed to be high, the seeds are costly and cannot be saved for the next season, increasing the farmers' dependency on seed companies and preventing them from breeding their own strains of rice.
Lorenzo Leongson, Secretary General of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson said peasant groups in Central Luzon are continuing the campaign against genetic engineering as they learned of planned field tests of blight-resistant rice strains in the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Mu�oz, Nueva Ecija.
Founded in 1959 under an agreement forged by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations with the Philippine government, IRRI's lease for operations in this Southeast Asian country expires in 2003.
The protest action was jointly organized by the Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP), Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development (Masipag) and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Philippines.
MASIPAG/Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development 3346 Aguila St., Rhoda Subd. Los Ba�os, Laguna Philippines Tel./Fax (63-49) 536-5549 [email protected]