An aerial view of Greenpeace staffs and volunteers and farmers in Ratchaburi harvesting rice in the Rice Art field.

Sorry for the late update. Last Saturday (21 November 2009), hundreds of Greenpeace supporters and local farmers met at the Rice Art field in Ratchaburi province and harvested the black rice that was left after the green rice had already been harvested 2 weeks ago. It was a  very emotional activity, where urban supporters joined local farmers to harvest together organic rice in the traditional way.

For many of them, it was the first time in their life that they shared and participated in farmer  work and it was very inspiring. There were also displays of traditional milling of rice in front of the field, so everyone could understand the different processes of rice after harvest until it is commercialized and finally consumed. It also reaffirmed us that what a wonderful traditional way and wisdom of planting rice that we have.

The harvest ceremony was attended by Greenpeace Southeast Asia's chairman Dr.Ophart, our Executive Director Von, Fundraising Director Dawn and Campaign Director Shai. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Senior Management Team to devote their valuable  time to participate and support this event. Also, I would like to thank everyone who were  involved in this and made it happen, you are very respected.

The governmental bodies visiting the field and also participating symbolically by harvesting were comprised of the Vice-Governor of Ratchaburi province and Dr.Sumith Champrasith (Secretariat of the Economic Sufficiency Institute). The Vice Governor of Ratchaburi province made a statement on behalf of the provincial authority and that was strong GE-free rice statement and fully in support of the Greenpeace's campaign. As discussed with him, he is quite keen to help us on the GE rice issues and will provide us information about rice research conducted in Ratchaburi. He is also keen of developing organic rice farming in the province and disseminating organic farming methods and this will provide us with a good platform for our future work on agriculture in Thailand.

Kum Payao rice species, the black rice

Dr.Sumith is a very strategic person who plays an important role, particularly on agricultural  issues in the country. He made a statement with a few specific demands on Thai agricultural  problems (i.e. land grabs and national policy on organic agriculture). He also stated that the country needs to protect our agriculture from GE crops and the most urgent one is GE rice. However, his focus is actually more specific on organic farming and sufficiency economy than on GE issues. But we had a very good conversation with him and he committed to put GE rice issues into his 2010 plan and will be following up all inside info regarding GE crops for us. It's quite good that we have him on our side.

Chainart 1 species of rice that gave green color to the Rice Art.

Unfortunately, eventhough the Prime Minister was invited, he has faced another political problem so his attention has been with that and he didn't come, neither the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST). Anyhow, the success of this harvest day will allow us to follow up with both of them to get the official GE-free policy to be announced publicly.

We have already received an official letter from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) stating a GE-free rice policy from the government and this also was confirmed casually in a discussion we had last week with the The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)'s Deputy Director,  explaining that the Thai government is quite clearly against GE rice and insists in the GE-free rice policy. The difficulty is to get this policy to be proactive and public.

This harvest day was a closure of a huge effort of many of those in the Greenpeace world,  including the dedicated volunteers and farmers who made the Rice Art work happened. We now have some rice in a beautiful package and the picture of the field for our political work. We will continue to try to get the good GE-free position from the Thai government to be even more solid. In the meantime, it has helped us develop our relationship with farmers of the province, from which we will be able to build our Sustainable Agriculture network for the coming years.