Guadalajara, Mexico City, March 4, 2010 – A Filipino farmer attending a biotechnology conference organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) went on hunger strike the other day in protest of what civil society organizations perceive to be a heavy bias of the event towards the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.
Isidoro “Boy” Ancog, an organic farmer from the province of Bohol in the Philippines, declared the hunger strike during the second day of the 10th FAO international technical conference entitled “Agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries: Options and opportunities in crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries and agro-industry to face the challenges of food insecurity and climate change (ABDC-10)”, being held in Guadalajara, Mexico on March 1-4, 2010.
He made his first intervention during the session on targeting biotechnologies for the poor on the first day of the conference, after the Chair of the session mentioned poor farmers and the need for them to tap on biotechnology.
“I am against GMOs. My province, Bohol, publicly rejects GMOs as a policy. The organizations I represent — PAKISAMA (National Confederation of Peasant Organizations in the Philippines), and AFA (Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development) — are fighting against GMOs. Why? Because we firmly believe it is not the solution to poverty and hunger, but rather a cause of more deprivation in the future,” said Ancog.
He observed that small scale men and women farmers and fishers, who form the majority of the poor in the world, were heavily underrepresented in the conference.
“Most of the documents I have come across [in this conference] deal with genetic engineering, and for that, I have this feeling that this conference has defined biotechnology to zero in towards massive commercialization of GMOs,” said Ancog.
“As a poor farmer in a remote province of Bohol, Philippines, I [feel] extremely threatened. This is a manifestation of what is happening in our villages — we are targeted, we are not involved in processes. Technologies are so top-down, imposed on us with very little knowledge given, especially on their limitations and effects. GMO is an attack to life; it is an insult to the most ancient culture, which is agriculture; it runs against ecology; it violates the law of nature and above all, it is disrespect to the integrity of creation,” Ancog added.
In response to his impassioned appeal to the participants and conference host to rethink the strategy of bioengineering, the session Chair merely recommended that Ancog submit his declaration in writing so that it could be included in the minutes.
Not satisfied with the response, Ancog declared the hunger strike on the second day of the conference, during a plenary session where investments on agriculture research and agricultural biotechnologies were being discussed.
“I have very high respect to all the people attending this conference,” he said, but I am formally announcing that I am on a hunger strike beginning this lunch time. This is to signify our protest against GMOs.”
ABDC-10 is hosted by the Government of Mexico and co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the World Bank are major partners in this initiative.
Participants to the conference are from delegations of Member States of FAO; from the United Nations and its specialized agencies; other intergovernmental organizations; international non-governmental organizations and international civil society organizations; the conference Steering Committee; as well as invited speakers and panelists at the conference.
Ancog is representing the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), a national confederation of small farmers, marginal fishers, rural women, indigenous peoples and rural youth in the Philippines, as well as the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), a regional organization of 9 national farmers’ federations from 8 countries in Asia, representing more than 10 million small scale men and women farmers.
Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA)
Rm 206, Partnership Center Building
59 C. Salvador Street, Loyola Heights
Quezon City, Philippines 1108