July 28, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- MindaNews, 07/18/03:
Earlier dubbed "mysterious," the growth disorder
which has affected some 665 hectares of land planted
mainly to hybrid corn has been traced to the "interplay
of genetic and climatic factors," for which hybrid
seed manufacturers Monsanto Philippines, Inc., Pioneer
Du Pont and Syngenta, Inc. have been asked to indemnify
some 200 farmer-victims in three towns here.
The corn growth abnormalities were characterized, among
others, by abnormal length of cobs, multiple ears, barren
cobs or cobs with no kernels at all.The Technical Ad
Hoc Committee (TAC) set up by the Department of Agriculture
(DA) to investigate the corn growth disorders, recommended,
among others, that hybrid corn seed companies Monsanto
Philippines, Inc., Pioneer Du Pont and Syngenta, Inc.
indemnify the victims in Kalilangan, Don Carlos and
Pangantucan towns, who will earn nothing from this season's
The other recommendations made by the TAC are: for
LGUs to declare the affected areas as calamity areas;
to withdraw all batches of seeds imported and subject
these to further multi-location field tests. The TAC
also recommended that two-season trials be conducted
in coordination with the municipal agriculture office
and Central Mindanao University and quality assurance
of imported hybrid seeds should be instituted.
The TAC presented its findings during a forum on July
16 at the Administration Conference Hall of the Central
Mindanao University (CMU), here.
The committee report's summary stated that the hybrid
corn seeds were prone to develop reproductive abnormalities
given a short dry spell and that it has not been tested
in such climatic conditions. The committee concluded
that the phenomenon was a result of the "interplay
of genetic and climatic factors."
The committee ruled out population density and mutual
shading among corn plants in the area, high temperature
and deficient nutrients, as causes of the phenomenon.
The committee report also indicated that sege-sege
corn, a non-hybrid variety, was not affected by the
CMU's Dr. Conrado Duque, TAC member, who presented
the findings, pointed out that the affected areas were
exposed to moisture stress. He said that sample areas
were planted to the hybrid corn variety on the first
week of April. From May 21-June 5, there was zero rainfall
and the vital stage of tasseling and pollination reportedly
occurred from June 1-4, which jointly caused the abnormalities,
According to the website, www.keylate.com,
the most important period of growth in corn occurs early
in the plant's life. "The crown will 'set' the
genetic expression on how the plant grows ... roots,
stalk, leaves, and ear. The next most important period
is 10 days before tasseling until pollination. This
period determines silk growth, cob growth, direction
of sugar flow from the stalk to the ear (early dying
or stay green), kernel abortion, cob length. During
this period, a massive amount of a hormone is made by
the top growth of the plant during this period. If it
is in a high concentration compared to the rest of the
plant, all of the negative things happen such as poor
silk growth, poor pollination, poor cob growth, early
dying of the plant."
Chaired by Dr. Artemio Salazar, DA Director for Corn
Program, TAC's members include Duqye and Dr. Nonito
Franje of CMU and a Dr. Manuel, a nutritionist. The
committee did not expound on the "interplay of
genetic and climatic conditions" but said further
studies or observations would be needed to really pinpoint
the details of the phenomenon.
But Dr. Salazar, TAC chair, told MindaNews that the
TAC report is "not binding" on the seed companies
in that they cannot compel the hybrid corn seed firms
to indemnify the farmers. He said the findings were
only empirical descriptions of what happened and a longer
study is needed to determine if the abnormality was
genetic or climatic.
Salazar, however, said the firms should help the farmer-victims
"out of moral considerations." Salazar added
that hybrid corn seeds have passed quality standards
and product testing, although their report showed that
the seeds were untested in the situation observed in
the three towns.
Pio Moreto, research director of Monsanto Philippines,
Inc stressed that their products underwent "very
intensive testing" of around three to seven years
before they were commercialized. He said the phenomenon
observed was Monsanto's first in its history. Salazar
said a "big number" of the corn farmers affected
by the phenomenon used Monsanto's Dekalb 9051 seed variety.
But he added that most farmers prefer this variety because
of its "commercial success."
"It so happened that these abnormalities happened
this time with the hybrid seeds", Salazar said.
The TAC report on conditions observed in an area in
Don Jose Kalilangan town which was planted to hybrid
corn varieties or varieties grown adjacent to each other
showed that in the use of Dekalb 9051 or DK 9051 seeds
of Monsanto Philippines, Inc. 100% of the corn plants
grew multiple ears, had incomplete kernels, or had barren
cobs or cobs without kernels at all.
In the area planted with Pioneer 30M50 of Pioneer Du
Pont Seeds, Inc., 70% to 80% of the corn plants were
observed with incomplete kernels and barren cobs.
In another area planted to DK 9051, 30% of the corn
plants suffered from missing kernels while 70% of the
corn plants grew barren cobs.
The GSI 40 of Asian Hybrid Seeds, Inc. and the sege-sege
or sige sige OPV/ non-hybird variety, showed no abnormalities.
In another area outside the 'adjacent planting"
area, NK 8840 of Syngenta Hybrid Seeds, Inc., indicated
abnormalities but no percentage or figures were given.
DK 818 of Monsanto also suffered abnormalities but no
figures were given.
In the Department of Agriculture's website on the "9
basic steps towards a bountiful corn harvest,"
the first step it recommends is "choosing the appropriate
variety of hybrid and securing good quality seeds."
"In choosing the appropriate variety, consider
adaptability to climatic conditions, potential yield,
maturity resistance to insect pests and diseases, and
market demand" and "use only high quality
seeds to avoid thinning of seedlings or expensive replanting
A representative from the barangay council of Don Jose,
Kalilangan, told the forum that the council has not
approved the resolution declaring the affected areas
as calamity areas because they are waiting for action
from the hybrid seed companies.
But representatives from Monsanto Philippines, Inc.
Pioneer Du Pont and Syngenta seed companies at the forum,
said they still have to refer the matter of indemnification
to their top management.
DA Regional Executive Director Rufo T. Chan, Jr. required
the representatives of the seed companies to state their
companies' action on the indemnification issue on July
22 at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan regular session.
Also present at the forum was SP member Anacleto Macias
(3rd district), the board's committee on agriculture
chair. Macias urged the representatives of the seed
companies to indemnify the farmer-victims and not rely
on action from the local government units "so that
the issue would not grow bigger."
He said they owe it to the people and to their good
name to help the farmers recover from the problems caused
by the corn abnormalities. Chan said that whether or
not the hybrid seed companies pay the farmer-victims,
the government must act on the matter and protect the
interests of the people.
He said they are expediting the study so that the farmers
could already be assisted. Salazar stressed the affected
areas "do not even comprise 1% of Bukidnon's 120,000
hectares of agricultural lands planted to corn"
and so it is not really a big problem for the province's
In the three towns, the affected areas, the committee
said, comprised only 9.3% (190) of the 2,033 hectares
in Don Carlos; 9.1% (275) of the 3,000 hectares in Kalilangan;
and 5.2% (200) of the 3,819 planted in Pangantucan.
But Salazar acknowledged that the areas affected are
within the corn basket of the province.
Salazar said no reports had been made about similar
incidence in the other towns. Bukidnon provincial agriculture
officer Pacifico Ramos earlier told MindaNews that the
condition has only affected a small portion of Bukidnon's
Ramos said his office in coordination with municipal
agricultural offices, has prepared a master list of
the farmers affected.