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Farmers Destroy 'Golden Rice' GMO Trials in Philippines
By Katie Rucke
Filipino farmers destroyed an 800 square meter trial plot of genetically modified rice Thursday that was just weeks away from being sent to the authorities for a safety evaluation.
The “Golden Rice” crop was genetically engineered (GE) by scientists to create an increased production of beta-carotene, which the human body converts into vitamin A. The Golden Rice project was started about 20 years ago by German researchers, who received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.
The group of about 400 protesters, which included local farmers and members of two anti-GMO groups—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (KMB) and the Sararong Inisyatiba nin Kahinwanmaan sa Wasakon ang Agrokemikals na Lasong-GMO (Sikwal-GMO)—said they uprooted and trampled the rice plants because they wanted to protect the health of the people and their environment.
Despite the use of genetically modified technology being highly contentious in the Philippines, researchers planted five small test plots in the country, and hoped to be able to release the crop to farmers starting in 2014.
The Philippines is the world’s fourth-largest importer of rice in the world, since the country has very limited land resources to produce the amount of rice needed. However, officials reported earlier this year that due to increased rice planting, they expected a 6 percent increase of the crop this year, which was estimated to result in the production of 18 million metric tons of rice.
Despite the limited amount of land for rice production and the fact that 89 percent of the rice is consumed, Filipino rice farmers often don’t earn enough income to support their families on that money alone.
Scientists reasoned that since there are millions of children in the developing world that have a vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness and increase a person’s susceptibility to disease, the vitamin A deficiency is seen as a significant problem in the world. Reports from Helen Keller International say that there are around 670,000 children that die each year around the world from a vitamin A deficiency, and about 350,000 will go blind.
Of the five experimental fields in the country, protesters reportedly destroyed just one. While there were about 30 policemen at the field trying to prevent the destruction of the crop, Bert Autor, the coordinator of Sikwal-GMO and secretary-general of the KMB, said farmers finished the job in about 15 minutes.
“They [farmers] were not able to control their emotional outburst,” Autor said in a statement, adding that the farmers were fired up by warnings from “concerned scientists and peasant leaders” about the “dangers” of the Golden Rice (or GM rice) to health and its threat to biodiversity.
Autor added that the rice “was nothing but a ploy of agrochemical transnational corporations like Syngenta to satisfy their monopoly on seeds and rake more profits.” Syngenta, the third-largest biotechnology and global chemical company in the world, owns the patent on Golden Rice.
Autor said that despite promises from officials from the Department of Agriculture that there wouldn’t be any trial fields, the trials have continued. “We are very concerned as there is news that feed testing will start this year and that the harvest will be used in these feed experiments. In China, the people have protested against the feed trials on children, prompting proponents to compensate the affected families. We do not want our people, especially our children to be used in these experiments,” he said.
“This should serve as a stern warning to those planning to conduct GM field trials in Bicol. What we need is a comprehensive and long-term solution to address hunger and malnutrition. Golden rice, and GMOs [genetically-modified organisms], in general, will only aggravate the already dire condition of the small and resource-poor farmers.”
Despite the protest and destruction of the field, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Department of Agriculture and the Philippine Rice Research Institute all have said that the development of the Golden Rice crop will continue in the country, since the purpose of the genetically modified crop is to fight malnutrition.
On its website, the IRRI said the field trials were part of the organization’s work to see if the crop would be a safe and effective way to reduce vitamin A deficiencies, which mostly affect women and children.
Dr. Bruce Tolentino is the deputy director general of communications and partnerships for the IRRI. He said “Vitamin A deficiency is horrible and unnecessary, and we want to do our part to help to reduce it.”
He added that the organization was “really disappointed” the field was vandalized, but said that “This is not a major setback, because it is just one trial of a series and just one of several sites. We remain completely committed to continuing our Golden Rice research to help improve people’s nutrition.”
But despite the allegedly good-intentions of IRRI to develop the crop, the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) has said there are better ways to reduce the number of people with vitamin A deficiencies than using a genetically engineered crop.
Dr. Chito Medina, convenor of Resist and Masipag (Farmer and Scientist for the Development of Agriculture) national coordinator, agreed with the protest and called for an immediate stop to all field testing of GM crops, explaining that the crops are hazardous to human health, the environment and agriculture.
Visit EcoWatch’s GE FOOD page for more related news on this topic.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
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