Istambay sa Mindanao

Personal blog of MindaNews' Walter I. Balane. Visit for more news, views and information on Mindanao.

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Location: Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

I'm Walter Balane. I am a journalist based in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines. I initiated the group called Atong Press ( for press freedom and responsibility and media education in Bukidnon.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Opinion: A Mindanawon's lamentations on the perils of synthetic food and drugs

NOT everybody would notice it.

But life in Mindanao, with the surging entry of "advance" technology, Western modernity and the allure of “globalization”; had long been crept with foreign and inappropriate interventions.
Ang uban niini dili haum sa mga pamaagi diri sa Mindanao. (Some of these are not fit to conditions here.)

Change is something that people must not be afraid of. In many instances, though, changes bring unlikely effects, that are often hidden and most people are not mindful of them.

So, some ways, even the indigenous, are altered with new ones that stemmed from steamy scientific and technological advances brough from the West.

For example, any one can relate with the threat that formula milk bears to breastfeeding. Everybody knows there is no alternative to it. Even milk makers recognize that in their labels. But the message to counter that breasfeeding is still the best was not given much space. By choosing to blur, this society has tolerated it.

This is true not only on foods for babies! Look at the cereals that they sell in the market for breakfast. They claim it is complete because it is fortified with vitamins and minerals! Who is sure about these fortifications? Even junk food makers claim they fortify "junk food" with vitamins! I'm not sure if any nutrient could go beyond junk!

The threat is actually comprehensive. In Mindanao's farmlands, you’ll see a lot of products and techniques owing productivity to “synthetics”. Some of which had been tested in some areas --but not through time. Examples include hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and even farming techniques that go with these technologies.

In the Go Organic Mindanao conference in December last year, I met a group who advocates for, among others, the return to a traditional, natural and also productive method of farming: looking at the stars and cosmic locations when to plant, harvest and among other things!

The threat is apart from the problems of the invasion of products from foreign producers, like onion bulbs for kinilaw from China! However, this is not only an issue of nationalist ideals, economic sufficiency or even protectionism and other isms (neo-classical economists would say “efficiency” or optimality). It is about certain limits of interventions that often go against the ways of nature (the way its creator meant it to be) or culture (the distinct ways of peoples).

Food today is basically processed. It is transported from a farm to a factory or a processing plant where the economy uses a lot of energy to convert it into another form (mixed with artificial ingredients, etc) and delivered to the whole economy, even back to the farms where some of these inputs come from! This is altering diet, health and way of life in general!

Another way to see it is through the increasing popularity of instant and fastfood chains that serve Western-originated food like French fries and deep fried chicken (using a lot of oil and spices). Fast food chains, Filipino-owned or American are sprouting around Mindanao in the past 10 years and making a lot of statements! Among them, “food should be from the restaurant, should be expensive, full of spices, should be prepared by someone else.” These foods and set-up of preparing them appeal to kids for their strategic marketing schemes!

Everything is being converted to instant food or “fast food chain” food that already, some kids find it hard to appreciate their mothers’ home cooking!

We don’t even have to look far to see how these interventions creep to us. Our daily softdrinks consumption shows this. Look at Tasing (in photo), 25, in the mountains of Monkayo, Compostela Valley. He carries soft drink bottles from a remote village of people who drink the soft drink for their lunch and snacks! Drank by those who have prefered natural drinks like coconut water or wine?

The problem is, these synthetic food, drinks, drugs and others have proven side effects to people's health. Yet it is not stressed even in rural health centers!

Another, look at Nestle, the European food giant. These days they also bottle water from our springs in the guise of safe, handy, and potable water! They are actually beginning to change the terrain of the economy. This also has bearing healthwise. Ask how do they creep? Go figure!

The other week, environmentalists in Davao lobbied against aerial spraying used by banana plantations because these are raining toxic substances to the open air and the public. In this case, it might be good to the banana growers, and their importers too; but not to public health.

Any corn farmer in Bukidnon, Cotabato, and Agusan; or any hybrid rice farmer in Banay-Banay, Davao Oriental would lament about this modern and more productive means of farming. Yes, they might earn more money and perhaps faster, but these synthetic farm inputs: seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides require big amount of money. Many of these farmers could get this money only from loan sharks disguising as “agricultural suppliers” in the rural and urban areas.

Manong Felipe, 56, one of Banay-banay's rice farmers, held his soiled and torn short pants as he walked to the “square garden” in September 2004. Tagging along his cock fighter, he said he wanted to gamble some chance to get back some lost blessings. In 2005, when I visited him again, he has given up farming and worked as a cook instead. He has lost in the last cropping. His agricultural supplier, who he still owes big time, is driving his four-wheel drive vehicle to Davao City to spend his own share of the harvest.

The point is, the whole idea of synthetic farming, modern technology and other new interventions impact on the way of life of people. For as long as they have no ownership to this technologies and ways, no matter how much promise they have for prosperity, the poor Mindanawon farmer, consumer and producer is enslaved to a global network of businesses.

Their goal is that as they pursue their own interests altogether it might result to the most optimal economic setting. Some capitalists swell their stomachs with fruits of the labor of smaller and clueless victims. I’m talking about the terminator technology proposed. If that would be allowed, farmers have to buy new seeds from suppliers everytime they plant a new cropping!

A well-established social engineering work is another problem. "Synthetic" technologies have advocates in many sectors embedded in society, to what else, perpetuate their interests. For example, farmers hungry of techniques on better farming could only see sales agents of hybrid seed companies going to their villages to sell their products. They are disguised as “expert agricultural technicians” and served as alternates to local agriculturists, who by the way are also advocates of these for “Masaganang Ani”.

Pity also goes to alternative medicines and traditioal health practices that had been altered with prescription and over the counter medicine. Some remained better cure to still a good number of ailments. This could be unfair to the doctors but you know better, some of these physicians recommend drugs that are “lobbied” to them by medical representatives in exchange for some favors! (Without prejudice to those who remained noble and also loyal to the Hippocratic Oath).

This mentality of curative health sucks! Why not advocate preventive practices to minimize incidents of curative cases!

It’s a global situation that gets worse by the minute. The wish is not really to freeze Mindanao in time: opt for primitive and unscientific conditions, and close its door's to the world; but to work for more natural, humane, sustainable, and equitable means of using and sharing Earth for a living.

Yes Virginia, there is a “Santa” of high technology. But at the mainstream, many of these modern techniques of farming and food production; and these food and drugs products and accessory technologies are not among the gifts.

Surely, mankind benefits from these symbols of advancement but, the question remains: Is the extent of the benefits greater than that of its costs?


Anonymous Arnold Gimenez said...

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8:53 PM  
Blogger Waltzib said...

Hi Arnold, I hope your comment could be clearer to me. The way I see it, you are suggesting to look at that brand to go further? I see, Thank for that and also thanks for dropping by.

9:07 PM  

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