June 23, 2003

Filipino Activist Urges U.S. Government to Consider Effects of Food Technologies and International Trade on Family Farms Worldwide


SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Irradiation is one of several emerging technologies in the global food system that threatens to wipe out family farms and benefit corporate agribusinesses seeking greater control of the world’s food supply, according to Jayson Cainglet, a consumer advocate from the Philippines. Cainglet is attending the Ministerial and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento this week to draw attention to increased use of irradiation in the Philippines. The U.S. public interest group Public Citizen is sponsoring his visit.

Cainglet, spokesperson for the Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty, said that U.S. Department of Agriculture officials need to hear his plea for help for both Filipino and Californian farmers as they deal with the changing landscapes of farming and food distribution. SureBeam, a San Diego-based irradiation company and the largest irradiation contractor in the Philippines, is a primary example of the way corporate interests are overwhelming his country’s family farmers, Cainglet said.

"These emerging food technologies are truly a tool for large agribusiness to push out small farmers through extended shelf-life and high-input production practices that emphasize profitability over sustainability," said Cainglet. "Irradiation is designed to cover up inherent problems in production methods that agribusiness employs, but small-scale farms do not rely on this technology."

As technologies like irradiation are exported from the United States to the Philippines, not only are Filipino farmers hurt, but so are California growers. Irradiation increases the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables and kills invasive pests such as fruit flies, enabling corporations to grow crops overseas and ship them back to the United States at an increased profit margin. California growers may be threatened by the flood of imports from large agribusinesses that have moved overseas to grow crops for export. Small-scale Filipino farmers could become sharecroppers on their own land, while California farmers would not be able to compete with cheap imports.

Cainglet has been working on agriculture, food security, agrarian reform, trade, food sovereignty and economic justice issues for more than 15 years. He works closely with peasant movements, non-governmental organizations and other civil society organizations.