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Hands off our rice!

Background - May 20, 2009

It's time to take action!

The big issue

Rice is the world's most important staple food - with more than half of the global population eating it every day. It has been grown around the world for over 10,000 years and is cultivated in 113 countries. Rice is also a key ingredient in a wide variety of processed foods ranging from baby food to the more obvious rice noodles. But all this is under threat as genetic engineering (GE) continues to creep up on our most valuable food.

Today, gentically modified (GM) rice only exists in field trials. But all that could change tomorrow as agri-chemical companies and some governments around the globe are trying to commercialise it. Ecological farming is the safest solution to the food crisis and looming climate change disasters. Keeping rice GE-free is not just about consumer choice or the environment - it's a lot bigger than that. It's a matter of global food security, human rights and survival.

Stand up for your rice!

Take action now to protect the world's most important food.

View the photo-essay by John Novis on traditional rice farming in the Yunnan province of southern China.

Risky business 

The German chemical giant Bayer is trying to sell a herbicide resistant variety of GM rice to countries - for commercial planting. Conventional and organic rice is at great risk from being contaminated by GM strains and controlled by multinational corporations and governments. 

The rice made by Bayer (called LL62) has been genetically engineered to withstand high doses of glufosinate, a herbicide sprayed on rice fields to control a wide range of weeds. It's no surprise that Bayer also makes the glufosinate. Any use of the GM rice will boost their chemical sales as a consequence. While this is a nice set up for Bayer shareholders it places farmers, consumers and the environment at risk. Glufosinate is considered to be so dangerous to humans and the environment that it will soon be banned in Europe in accordance with recently-adopted EU legislation.

The Bayer GM rice has been shown to have a different nutritional composition than its natural counterpart. It also has a high risk of producing superweeds by transferring its new gene to weedy relatives. Rice traders and producers worldwide reject the GM rice, because of high economic risks. The global rice industry lost some 1.2 billion dollars in 2006, when another GM rice variety from Bayer contaminated global food supplies

Where it's at

Use this map to find out what is happening with rice accross the world. This map will be updated as events and government decisions happen.

View Larger Map

Keeping it real

We are campaigning to keep rice GE-free for the following reasons:

  • Genetic engineering is a threat to food security, especially in a changing climate. GM crops repeatedly failed under extreme weather conditions, and some GE plants yield consistently less than their natural counterparts. Earlier this year, GE farmers in South Africa, for example, lost more than 80,000 hectares of corn for unknown reasons. The best insurance policy against climate change and erratic weather conditions is diversity.
  • The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by choice or by accident grossly undermines sustainable agriculture and in so doing, severely limits the choice of food we can eat.
  • There have been over 140 documented cases of GM crop contamination in the past 10 years. Once GMOs are released into the environment, they are out of control. If anything goes wrong, if crops fail, human health risks are identified or the environment is harmed, they are impossible to recall.
  • GMO contamination threatens biodiversity. Biological diversity must be protected and respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival.

Life is not an industrial commodity

A young volunteer plants conventional rice in Thailand to create 'rice art' as a symbol against GM-rice.

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