7 December 2001
IRRI DID NOT BETRAY US, IT'S SIMPLY BEING TRUE TO ITSELF
Masipag News & Views
Feedback on the Jasmine issue
Like biological systems, human history carries a stamp of the truth no matter how ardously we work to veil it, obfuscate or pretend otherwise. Why are we so "shocked", so "outraged" by IRRI's present "betrayal"?
The IRRI was NEVER intended as an institute designed to protect the world's heritage in the interests of the world's peoples who nurtured the world's food systems to feed us all. IT WAS DESIGNED FROM THE OUTSET TO DO THE CONTRARY.. WHICH IS, TO DELIVER THE WORLD'S HERITAGE TO AMERICAN CORPORATE PRIVATE PROPERTY. AND IT HAS SUCCEEDED IN ITS ENTERPRISE. I am not being cynical, I am being mournfully honest.
Let us NOT FORGET that Dr. Richaria of India had painstakingly collected 60,000 rice varieties from Indian farmers all across the land to set up the Indian Rice Research Institute in Cuttack, Orissa. THAT WAS THE WORLD'S FIRST AND ONLY IRRI and it should have remained so. All rice producing nations could have developed and managed their own seed banks and shared this critical heritage with the world's family farmers under their own terms. Why did this not happen?
The Rockefeller/Ford Foundation funded institute in the Phillipines (remember, a USA protectorate under Marcos then, with the USA Military Base directly involved in USA wars in the region..Korea and Vietnam) was FORCED upon the 'third world', and Dr. Richaria's seed stocks were FORCIBLY delivered to this institute as the initial base of its operations. Dr. Richaria was FORCIBLY removed from his job because he refused to yield these seeds to this American run institute, OBVIOUSLY CREATED TO SERVE AMERICAN CORPORATE INTERESTS FOR ANYONE WITH THE HONESTY TO ADMIT IT; "third world' 'friendly' in location only...in a Marcos managed Phillipines! (In the old days, before third world national liberation movements, when imperialism bore its brazen face, its leaders ie. the American president, at least spoke with some candor.."he may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is OUR son-of-a-bitch" it was said of dictators who plied American commercial and military interests on their peoples). I personally interviewed Dr. Richaria just months before his unfortunate demise to verify this story which I had initially read in an Indian publication.
And let us not forget, this institute has spearheaded the transformation of global, especially 'third world' agriculture to SERVE COMMERCE. Its service to the Biotechnology Industry and the USA patent regime is merely a most logical outcome of its ORIGINAL IMPETUS.. inevitable and coldly, heartbreakingly, predictable.
No matter its pious words about alleviating world hunger, its actions on the ground SCREAM through the silent mouths of the world's BILLIONS of wretched humans louder. All IRRI's dissembling words would lose meaning if only we would stop pretending that words have meaning over ACTIONS !! The only way to discern double-speak is to measure the words by the action; allowing for doubt, the long term outcome of the actions.
A few honest questions is the best test. What would a program TRULY designed to alleviate world hunger look like? Would it take from farmers fields the seeds FARMERS have nurtured, for every manner of yield to meet their needs, and transform these seeds into something only "research scientists" can 'improve' in exhorbitantly expensive laboratories ? Would it increasingly make farmer's home grown seeds non-viable while increasingly forcing upon them only commercially PURCHASED Seeds ?
Would it develop seeds that in order to produce the promised yields would DEMAND, DEPEND UPON, exhorbitantly expensive 'inputs' all factory produced, OFF THE FARM, by multinational corporations, thereby OBLIGING farmers(WITHOUT ENOUGH MONEY TO BUY FOOD !), to depend upon government subsidies or to relinquish their land to those who do have BUYING POWER to be 'farmers'? Do people/corporations with "buying power", invest in 'business opportunities'that do not promise PROFITS?
Would an agriculture institute designed to alleviate world hunger promote policies that displace hundreds of millions of subsistence peasants into a landess labor stream dependent on the vagaries of a GLOBALIZED economy to find the jobs, to earn the money, to BUY the food to sate their hunger? Would it, by the "science" it creates, help to concentrate farmland in the hands of fewer and fewer LARGE LANDOWNERS ? Would it tie the capacity of the "third world" to feed its people to its earnings in a Global Marketplace where even en masse the third world commands NO POWER TO SET THE PRICE FOR THE PRIMARY AGRICULTURAL COMMODITIES IT SELLS ? Would it create a web of agricultural dependencies so complex that every third world nation would enter a treadmill of ETERNAL DEBT AND STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAMS ?
Would it invalidate farmersí traditional knowledge so acutely as to create a crisis of confidence in tried and true methods of growing food? Would it take every EVIDENCE of VASTLY INCREASING WORLD HUNGER and ASSERT THAT IT BEARS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS OUTCOME ? WOULD IT NOT EXAMINE ITS OWN POLICIES, NOT RADICALLY REVISE ITS OWN APPROACH ? WOULD IT INSTEAD, AGGRESSIVELY, MAKE FIERCE CLAIMS of EFFICACY AND PROMOTE MORE OF THE SAME? WOULD IT CONSISTENTLY PROMOTE AS 'SCIENCE' WHAT IS ESSENTIALLY A PROGRAM IN AGRICULTURE CAPITALIST ENTERPRISE? Would it oversee, for every food dollar spent, an increasingly diminishing return to the farmer and a substantially multiplying return to corporate producers? Would it tip the scales towards vastly increased production of "value added" snack foods while inhibiting the production of foods vital to poor people's diets?
One might say that I am blaming the IRRI unfairly for all the world's agricultural ills. I believe that the record speaks for itself. It does not need any exaggeration on my part. The IRRI, and its cohort of networked institutes in their worldwide web have together orchestrated the complete delivery of third world agriculture into the suffocating grip of global corporate enterprise. What colonialism started is being completed by such agencies. Third world elites have allowed this Trojan Horse to undo the work of their freedom struggles, and people the world over are all paying the horrible price of the biological, ecological, economic, political, social, cultural and spiritual devastation it has perpetrated EVERYWHERE.
After all, how we produce and distribute food is the basis of all human "economics". Our societies, no matter how removed they may seem from 'farm and country' are built on this base. Those who envisioned IRRI and its brother institutes were not unaware of this. They were not naive novices blundering their altruistic way into trying to 'feed the world'. The world WOULD BE FEEDING ITSELF TODAY left well enough alone. But the course of USA agriculture enterprise would have foundered.
It had fed the second world war and it would, by its own internal compulsions, HAVE TO, "feed the world" on a 'war footing' like it or not. The FAO was neither altruistically nor accidentally the first of the UN institutes developed by the USA IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE WAR. The multinational corporate presence on the FAO Board of Advisors was not mere coincidence. It is quite accurate to state that post WWII history of world agriculture could not be written without a primary focus on the development of USA Agriculture Exports. IRRI and the CGIAR institutes are integral to this history and outcomes of it.
Yet even well-informed activists mute their criticisms and act shocked at the present 'betrayal'. A velvet glove on an iron fist cannot disguise the IMPACT of the fist, no matter how well it shields the appearance. The impact of the IRRI has brought us to this pass, we do not need to participate in the dissembling in order to acknowledge the many honest individuals who have worked and still work for such institutions.
My own noble, honourable long-dead and terribly missed father was a victim of his deep trust in such institutions. His excrutiatingly painful death due to prostate cancer riveted my attention to the so-called 'science' of IRRI. I have studied its origins and history..its inspiration and development..going all the way back to the plantation economies of colonial agriculture.
From its inception, the "science' of what we have come to accept as modern agriculture is, inalienably, one facet of colonialism, commerce and war and imperialism. We may fool ourselves, but we cannot trick the historical record. Our path to liberation is to acknowledge this record and to embrace paths that disconnect this history from our future if there is to be one.
We should NOT BE ASKING FOR ANY COMPROMISE WITH ANY OF THE CGIAR INSTITUTIONS. We should instead consider how to take charge of all their operations. From RAFI to the Third World Network, Food First, Navadanya, IFOAM---through all our linked groups worldwide, we should work with our supportive foundations to develop a plan to TAKE CHARGE of our seed stocks and establish our own laws of sharing, with family farmers everyhere, with organic growers worldwide, to the explicit exclusion of all corporate enterprise in agriculture. We should recognise the SERIOUSNESS of our purpose.
The Monsantos and Unilevers of the world are at the heart of the WTO enterprise. OUR seeds and agricultural resources are their life-source.
So are they ours, fundamental to our bilogical, ecological, economic, social, cultural and SPIRITUAL survival. We CANNOT ALLOW THEIR TAKE OVER, MONOPOLY, AND FURTHER EROSION.
It is important to uneqivically recognize that what we are calling IRRI's "betrayal" is IRRI's COMMITMENT TO ITS ONLY MANDATE : that is to DELIVER WORLD AGRICULTURE TO GLOBAL CORPORATE PRIVATE PROPERTY. In all its years of operation it has done so with impunity..with the collaboration of third world elites who have overseen a wanton give away of their people's food security to global corporate monopoly. Let us not bury our heads in the minutiae of the 'good' which individual IRRI scientists have done in the face of the crisis the institution has perpetrated. Let us face the truth and act boldly.
[Masipag News & Views is an occasional information release of the Farmer Scientist Partnership for Development (MASIPAG). This report, in whole or in part, could be freely published.]
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