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5th Bicol Organic Congress held

NABUA, CAMARINES SUR - More than 300 delegates from the different provinces of Bicol region came to the two day 5th Regional Organic Agriculture Congress last October 18-19, sponsored by the Dept. of Agriculture – RFU 5, at Macagang Business Center, Nabua, Camarines Sur. This year’s theme is “Organic Agriculture: Sustainability Feeding the Bikolanos.”

Mr. Santiago K. Cervantes, Chairman of the Bicol Federation of Dairy Cooperatives read the position paper submitted by the different organic farmer organizations during the 1st day of organic congress. Seated (L-R) are Ms. Lina Tan, considered a pillar among the organic farmers; DA Director Elena de los Santos; DA Regional Executive Director Jose V. Dayao; Mr. Joel Batanes, CBSUA VP for Research; and Mr. Miller Bicaldo of National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB).

Among the resolutions submitted for consideration is the policy reconsideration of canceling the on-going field trials of the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Golden Rice in Pili and Tigaon. It was disclosed during the organic congress that this field experiments are under the supervision of IRRI-PhilRice, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA), and the DA of Region 5. It will be recalled that last week, different groups of farmer organization staged a  protest rally in Pili to highlight their strong opposition to the GMO field testing in the two mentioned municipalities of Camarines Sur.

DA Regional Executive Director Jose V. Dayao read the message of Keynote Speaker ASEC Salvador S. Salacop who could not attend the Organic Congress. Dayao said he respects the opinion of those who protested the Golden Rice field experiments. He assures the farmers that these trials are under strict supervision and control. He even admitted that he is not even allowed to enter these experimental farms. When asked how big the area for each of the two trial farms, Director Dayao was not consistent. As to when these trial farms started, he was likewise inconsistent. What he admitted though was that the Tigaon trial farm is now in its 2nd cropping and the Pili trial farm is on its 1st cropping stage. But some organic advocates are not convinced.

Dr. Albert Jo, MD of Rapha Valley of Wellness, Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, one of the resource speakers, a renowned wellness and organic vegetarian advocate informed the delegates that Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Golden Rice is not the answer to the Vit. A deficiency which the controversial rice is said to address. Dr. Jo says that sweet camote (7,700 IU for every regular size camote) has more vitamins than the touted Golden Rice. Besides, Dr. Jo added that we have to eat at least seven (7) kilos of Golden Rice/person/day to get the minimum daily intake of Vit. A; which he said would increase our cholesterol levels. Beside, Dr. Jo added that the scientific communities in the world are wary of the long-run effects of these GMOs.

On the other hand, CBSUA Vice Pres. Joel Batanes underscored the Bicol poverty incidence of 45.1% in 2009 as one of the highest in the country. The national level of poverty was 26.6%. “This low income of Bicol is because of the backward agriculture in the Bicol region. Many of the farmers are not developed, and most of them are subsisting on a marginalized system of (farm) production.” said VP Batanes during the interview.

Another resolution submitted during the Organic Congress is the Convergence Project of high value crop production using organic farming systems along the buffer zones of Mt. Isarog and other upland areas in the Bicol region. This project is envisioned to make Bicol self-sufficient in its vegetable needs.

Many of those who attended the Organic Congress felt that there is a need for a general consensus as to how to chart the road-map to achieve the goals as called for in RA 10068, better known as the Organic Act.  

Submitted by:

Robert G. Ariola
Sola Fide Media & Resource Center
October 23, 2012