Greenpeace today releases an Ecological Rice Farming Report at a seminar in Beijing. Fruit of a year-long project in cooperation with scientists from different institutes in China, the report systematically analyzes the threats to the sustainability of rice farming in China, such as agro-chemicals and genetic engineering. The report aims at introducing and promoting a series of existing eco-farming practices to the public and decision makers in China.
Mr. Zhang Yanbin, a rice farmer from Henan province, is introducing eco-farming rice from his home town to the audience at the Ecological Rice Farming Seminar organized by Greenpeace
"This report is a constructive step taken by Greenpeace to actively seek alternatives to rice farming in China without excessive chemical use or genetic engineering ", said Steven Ma, Campaigner of Greenpeace China.
Scientists from South China Agriculture University and Yunnan Agriculture University have contributed to the report. In the first half, the report discusses the importance of and the threats to the rice paddy field eco-systems. Then several eco-farming solutions such as rice-duck systems and varietal diversification schemes are proposed as alternatives to chemical farming and genetic engineering.
"Compared with the so-called high-tech solutions which usually sacrifice the eco-system for short term benefits, eco-farming solutions are much more friendly to the eco-system, yet effective and sustainable in the long term ", comments Ma.
At the seminar, Dr. Emerlito S. Borromeo, a researcher who used to work for International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), also presented the existing solutions to rice bacterial blight. In 2005, the Philippines delayed a plan to introduce GE rice to control bacterial blight because of its poor agronomic performance in comparison with traditionally-bred varieties. In China, a GE rice variety resistant to bacterial blight is also waiting for approval from the Ministry of Agriculture. "The Philippine experience serves as a good lesson for China", says Ma, "When existing solutions are enough and even better for controlling bacterial blight, why bother to risk our staple food with genetic engineering?"
The report also calls for more support to ecological rice farming solutions. Lack of research funding and promotion in village level are listed as two of the most serious challenges. "As a promising agricultural paradigm more friendly to the environment, ecological rice farming still faces obstacles such as the absence of agricultural technique extension systems at village level.", says Prof. Zhang Jia'en from South China Agriculture University.