ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

20 December 2002

WHO NEEDS GM? ORGANIC SYSTEM DOUBLES RICE YIELD

2 items from the Philippines:
1.Organic system doubles rice yield
2.MISSION IMPOSSIBLE - GMOs: uncharted country - The Manila Times

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Organic system doubles rice yield

http://www.foodmarketexchange.com/datacenter/news/dc_ns_index_detail.php3?newsid=14294&newslang=3&newsdate=2002-12-20

Philippines (December 20, 2002) - Norman Uphoff, director of Cornell University's International Institute for Food and Agriculture Development (CIIFAD), told visiting Filipino journalists in a lecture last month about a purely organic system of rice planting developed in Madagascar, which claims to increase rice yield per hectare by as much as 100% - doubling average rice yields of 3.5 metric tons (MT) per hectare to as much as 8 MT.

Mr. Uphoff noted that even he himself doubted the system until it underwent several field tests in different countries, including China, Indonesia and the Philippines, which showed that the system's success could be replicated. The system of rice intensification (SRI) grew out of insights gained by Fr. Henri de Laulanie, S. J., from his three decades of work with rice growing farmers in Madagascar.

Mr. Uphoff said the objective of SRI is not to maximize yields but rather to achieve higher productivity from the factors of production devoted to rice--land, labor, capital and water.

Some of the elements of the system are:

· plants are grown in less water and grow deeper and larger roots

· early transplanting before 15 days after they emerge in their nursery

· trauma to seedlings and especially to their roots should be minimized during transplanting

· since rice planted using SRI have large roots, wide spacing of plants will lead to greater root growth and accompanying tillering

· adding organic matter to the soil also creates beneficial conditions for plant root growths.

In a paper presented during an assessment of SRI field tests in China last April, Robert Gasparillo, program coordinator for Broad Initiatives for Negros Development (BIND), showed the promise of SRI can be replicated in the Philippines. Mr. Gasparillo said farmers found SRI interesting because it was able to increase yield to an average of 6.9 MT per hectare from non-SRI yield of only 3.5 MT. Moreover, SRI requires less amount of water--only 10% of what is required in traditional rice planting methods, allowing the farmer more flexibility.

Mr. Gasparillo also noted some constraints that may hamper the rapid adoption of the system in the Philippines such as high labour requirement for planting single seedlings, golden snail infestation in a newly transplanted field, can also be a problem and problems where draining of water could be difficult.

Mr. Uphoff said that since SRI is not advocated as a technology but rather a set of principles that can help farmers grow better yielding rice, those who will adopt the system are encouraged to experiment around the basic principles. "Farmers should be encouraged to test, vary and evaluate the practices, adapting them to their own field conditions and taking factors like their labor constraints into account," he said.

Source : organicts.com / bworld.com.ph

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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

GMOs: uncharted country
By Marit Stinus-Remonde
The Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2002/dec/20/opinion/20021220opi4.html

The British Medical Association is concerned with the continued field testing of genetically modified seeds. In the BMA's opinion, a moratorium on field trials should be imposed while the environmental and health impacts of the release of genetically modified organisms into nature are further studied. The fact is that, after more than a decade of GMOs, we know so little about the long-term effects of exposing our bodies and environment to genetically altered organisms.

This obviously is no deterrent to the Philippines. We have to be the first. And so we are the first country in Asia to allow the commercial release of the genetically manipulated Bt corn. The biotechnology giants are of course pleased. With a new agriculture secretary expressing great interest in modern, scientifically developed seeds - hybrid and genetically altered - and a bias in favor of large-scale agri-business, international seed giants such as Monsanto can look forward to great days.

Sure, GMOs have been commercially grown in the US for a long time. Of course nobody makes the mistake of comparing US agriculture with Philippine culture. American farms are big and capital intensive. Philippine farms are tiny, often less than a hectare, and labor intensive. Not necessarily because the Filipino farmer wants his farm to be labor intensive, but he doesn't have capital. The US government pumps billions of dollars into agriculture annually, while Philippine agriculture is mainly left to fight government neglect and globalization. So no comparison definitely, right?

It's interesting to note that the British Medical Association points to non-comparison between the US and the United Kingdom. About 70 percent of the land area of the UK is farmland. According to the BMA, farmland in the US constitutes 10 percent only. Why does this matter? In the opinion of the BMA, the overall impact to ecological systems and people of the use of GMOs in agriculture are likely to be much higher in countries with large land areas devoted to agriculture (and other growth) than in countries that are highly urbanized. It's ironic that the Philippines finds comparison with the US where the UK doesn't.

The Department of Agriculture wants the public, including the farmers, to believe that GMOs will increase farm incomes and feed the hungry. These, of course, are fall claims. Farmers are not poor because they are not using GMOs or hybrid varieties. They are poor because agrarian reform has taken forever in this country. The development of countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Korea that had sweeping timely agrarian reforms proves the necessity of land reform. The world is not short of food and resources, yet millions are malnourished or starving. Obviously, the problem is not technological but political.

Should we give science a chance? Of course, we shouldn't dismiss biotechnology outright. As every other technology, it has great potential to benefit people. However, we should also be cautious. British doctors are reportedly concerned about the long-term health impact. According to the BMA, this concern alone warrants a precautionary approach.

Our government seems too much in a hurry to worry about long-term effects. The fact that today's biotechnology giants have been involved in the development and manufacture of Agent Orange and other highly toxic pesticides does not concern us. The fact that it took a generation for the adverse effects of the some of most toxic chemicals to manifest themselves - by then, contamination of the environment had become so serious that we still don't know how long it will take to clean it up - doesn't scare us. Profit-driven science that interferes in and manipulates with nature has not been humbled despite the experience with chemicals. Who are they to guarantee the public that GMOs will not have a long-term impact that is not only irreversible but worse than that of, for instance, DDT and dioxins?

Former Agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor was impotent in stopping the inevitable. Biotech firms have been lobbying heavily for some time, pushing local government units not to object to the introduction of GMOs. With a representative of large-scale agri-business at the helm of the DA - somebody whose company has even tried to silence the truth about the health and environmental impacts of spraying toxic agri-chemicals in a plantation in Mindanao - the approval of the commercial release of Bt corn doesn't come as a surprise. That protest and resistance to the government's decision continue is no surprise either.

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