This week is Rice and Farmers’ week in Thailand and we’re celebrating a little known and un-publicized Thai agricultural policy that protects Thai rice from the risks of genetically-modified organisms.  Because of the policy, everyone – around the world, not just in Thailand – have a reason to be happy:  it is a public acknowledgement embedded in government policy that genetically-engineered crops are unnecessary and a risk to a sustainable future for farming.

The Thai Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has laid out this policy in their “Rice Strategy,” a master plan committed to strengthening the nation’s rice production while promoting farmers’ livelihoods and consumer confidence.  Keeping Thai rice GMO-free means that Thailand maintains its global leadership in rice production.

The policy also protects Thailand’s thousands-year old rice heritage from the inherent risks carried by genetically-engineered crops, risks that could threaten the future—and diversity—of the country’s treasured rice varieties.

But it’s not just Thailand who stands to benefit from such a bold move.  Consumers around the world know that they can trust Thai rice.  Thailand, home to some of the best rice in the world such as the fragrant Hom Mali (jasmine) rice, is one of the largest exporters of rice in the world.  In 2008 Greenpeace unveiled the Guinness World Record certifying Thailand as the largest exporter of rice, accounting (at that time) for 27% of all rice traded in the world. 

Thailand’s Rice Exporters Association was one of the first to slam their doors in the face of genetically-engineered rice in 2008.  Getting the government to keep Thai rice safe was more challenging.  But Thai activists, volunteers and consumers continued to show their love for Thai rice by persistently calling on the government to protect rice from GMOs.

In 2009, we presented a living sculpture on an organic rice field.  The rice art, planted by farmers and volunteers and depicting farmers at rice harvest, celebrated rice production in Thailand and was a reminder to the Thai Government to protect the country’s most important food crop from the imminent threat of genetic engineering.

Today, in keeping with the festivities, we’re unveiling a 3D hand painted scene of an organic farm with agricultural biodiversity, an illustration of healthy, ecological farming.  Learn more about this massive ‘pavement artwork,’ first launched with the first citizens initiative in in Europe, a million signatures for a sustainable and secure future of food.

The country this week celebrates Thai Farmers’ Day, which honours Thai rice farmers, the backbone of Thai society.  This week on June 5 we also celebrate World Environment Day.  Rice is the staple food for billions of people around the world.  Other governments should follow Thailand’s example.  A healthy environment means healthy people and food security for generations to come.

Greenpeace is calling for a continuation of the GE – fre rice policy as the MoA drafts the next Rice Strategy in the government plans.