IWD 2019: Women rise for food sovereignty!

This March, on the occasion of the International Women’s Month, we celebrate women’s vital role and contributions in advancing food sovereignty.

Women play an indispensable role as leaders and trailblazers in our collective struggle for land and life. The rural women, particularly, have continued to resist gender discrimination along with the exploitation of feudal landlords and corporations toward achieving our universal right to safe, nutritious, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food. Breaking the boundaries of patriarchal standards is part and parcel of our fight for food sovereignty, for freedom from all kinds of oppression is one of its key principles.

The historical militance of women, however, is challenged now more than ever. We face an ever-worsening global crisis marked by widespread hunger, rising poverty, massive landlessness, and intensifying repression. Neoliberal globalization and the corporatization of development continue to dominate our agriculture and food systems. At the losing end as always are our families and our communities, who bear the brunt from the flagrant plunder and monopoly control especially from imperialist nations.

Our seeds are under attack. Neoliberal policies continue to facilitate the concentration of the seed market in the hands of agribusiness giants. Rural women have always been and still are at the forefront of the struggle for seed sovereignty.

Transnational companies (TNCs) have been aggressive in their biofortification efforts to further monopolize their control of our agriculture and food systems. In fact, a number of genetically-engineered crops are slated to be commercialized in the next five years. The market release of Golden Rice, the genetically-modified rice with beta-carotene in order to supposedly address Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, is set within the year in Bangladesh[i]– confirmed by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture – and in Philippines and Indonesia in the next two years.[ii]

Meanwhile, seed trade liberalization is being furthered. In the Philippines, the recent passage of the Rice Tarrification Law in mid-February is killing the country’s rice industry. The law seeks to reduce the price of rice, a staple food for Filipino families, by removing restrictions to rice importation. This is a disadvantage to local farmers who will have to compete with cheap imported rice, which meant low to no income. [iii]The government admitted that the law was railroaded because it was a commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO).[iv]

The criminalization of seed saving, the TNC-induced loss of seed biodiversity, seed trade liberalization, and the corrosion of food sovereignty are direct attacks to rural communities – to rural women.

What are claimed to solve food insecurity and malnutrition will only put our farmers – and their families, which constitute the majority of the world’s population – into deeper poverty. At the same time, such state-backed corporate schemes destroy traditional practices on conserving and managing seeds, of which rural women are at the forefront.

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) joins the women farmers and food producers who are leading the protest against these issues. Women of the world, our struggle for equality continues as we confront the systemic oppression and exploitation of the status quo. Let us defeat the imperialist schemes and attacks by strengthening the unity and resistance of our social movements in asserting people’s food sovereignty! ###

[i] https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/agriculture/2019/02/01/minister-golden-rice-to-be-released-soon

[ii] https://www.cgiar.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/SMB10-BP1b-%E2%80%93-Biofortification-Strategy.pdf

[iii] http://davaotoday.com/main/economy/tarrification-to-kill-ph-rice-industry-peasant-group-warns/

[iv] https://mindanaoexaminer.com/rice-tarrification-a-commitment-to-wto-pinol/

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