BT corn use to raise corn yield but farmers’ group wary

Oct. 04, 2012

Pedro Arnado, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Davao, said farmers have complained of low incomes and bankruptcy due to their failure to pay mounting debts from traders in business with multinational genetically-modified seed producers.

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The call for the adoption of genetically-modified (GM) corn technologies is “harmful” to corn farmers, a militant peasant group said.

This, as the 8th Philippine National Corn Congress held here last month passed a resolution calling for the adoption of GM corn technologies to increase the average yield of corn production in the country.

Pedro Arnado, local chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said farmers have complained of low incomes and bankruptcy due to their failure to pay mounting debts from traders in business with multinational GM seed producers.

Arnado said the government has been endorsing the adoption of GM corn since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos.  He said companies producing GM seeds established production plants in the provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato.

Small farmers in Malandag in Sarangani were “adversely affected” when thousands of hectares were transformed into nurseries for BT corn, according to the KMP spokesperson.

In August this year, think-tank Ibon Foundation and the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag) released the results of their study on the impact of GM corn to small farmers in the country.

The joint research indicated that most of the 270,000 corn farmers interviewed ended up bankrupt and indebted to traders and financiers. The farmers were made to pay expensive genetically-modified corn, the prices of which increased by 282 percent.

The study also revealed that traders intentionally sold in separate price farm implements such as herbicide, which, when introduced by GM manufacturers beforehand, were supposed to be packaged with GM corn seeds.

Ibon and Masipag revealed in the study that GM corn seeds eat up to 18-21 percent of farmers’ total cost of production while fertilizer requirement eat up to 23 percent of the total cost.


The resolution to further boost BT corn production was also pushed by the Bukidnon-based Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize), who played a vital role during the 8th Corn Congress.

In an interview with, Philmaize official Rolando Galarrita said BT corn is a scientific breakthrough and that genetic engineering was done in response to the problem posed by the Asian corn borer (ACB), ostrinia furnacalis, which is considered as among the most destructive pests in the Philippines.

Galarrita said BT corn is a big help because, aside from controlling ACB populations, it allows farmers to save on other farm supplements and boosts their harvest.

Galarrita refuted claims by environmental activist group Greenpeace that BT corn is destructive saying there is no solid evidence to support the latter’s findings.

But in its 2005 report on the economics of BT corn, Greenpeace Southeast Asia said corn borer is actually a “manageable pest” and that BT crops contain bacterial toxin with insecticidal properties released into the environment.  The report also said these toxins have negative effects on “non-target organisms,” and on the soil ecology and fertility.

Help small farmers, not big business

KMP’s Arnado said the direction of the Agriculture Department should focus on the welfare of the small farmers, not on big business groups and individuals.

The question on how to help farmers to augment their economic condition must begin with the root of the problem, the KMP chairperson added.  Unless genuine agrarian reform is enacted and implemented, small farmers cannot emancipate themselves from their difficult situation, said Arnado.

The KMP chair added that billions of pesos in budget are being poured into the department yet only a minimal portion of lands on the hands of small farmers.  (Alex D. Lopez/

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