Import liberalization to blame for ‘fake rice’

The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) is deeply alarmed over reports of “fake rice” circulating in public markets as of late. The synthetic rice reportedly came from China and is also being sold in other Southeast Asian countries.

This incident underscores the grave effects of trade liberalization, especially of agricultural products. Rice is our country’s staple food. The government should therefore not depend on importation for our domestic supply. Rice importation as a policy of the Aquino administration is essentially flawed because (1) it deviates from the administration’s supposed responsibility of prioritizing and supporting local farmers; and (2) it inevitably raises the issue of the imported rice’s safety.

After harvesting, palay is only good up to six months and once milled, it only lasts for two months. Subsequently, its quality, color and taste will deteriorate unless treated with bleach or other chemicals to preserve it and enhance its taste.

Instead of importing rice, local production ought to be boosted through the promotion of traditional rice varieties, sustainable agricultural practices, and the use of appropriate technology in agricultural production.

The issue of fake rice tackles the issue of food safety. Food becomes “unsafe” when it contains a particular agent or contaminant or when it is in a state that could potentially lead to adverse human health effects. In this case, the fake rice allegedly contains plastic resin which is harmful to the digestive system.

Food security cannot be achieved without guaranteeing food safety. And its corollary is that food security is meaningless without food safety. Food tainted with contaminants or pollutants contradicts the main objective of food security, which is to achieve good health so that a person can lead an active life. Therefore, our government must ensure our country’s rice self-sufficiency so that Filipinos are able to enjoy their right to safe and sufficient food.###

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