Rice up against genetic engineering and climate change

Feature story - 2 September, 2009
Today we're celebrating Southeast Asia's rich heritage of rice cultivation with a giant organic work of art -- and reminding governments to protect our most important food crop from the threats of genetic engineering and climate change.

The art of rice cultivation has been perfected over thousands of years

The 'Rice Art' occupies an area of 16,000 square metres and depictsfarmers wearing straw hats and using sickles to harvest rice -reflecting the traditions and way of life of rice farmers. We plantedour work of art in Thailand's Central Plains - an area recognised asone of Southeast Asia's most fertile rice producing regions -- with two colours of organic rice. One is an irrigated local rice variety which appears green from above, and the second is a traditional black rice variety.

Rice is life

Rice is inextricably linked with the culture and way of life of peoplein Southeast Asia and this rich rice heritage must be protectedthrough sustainable rice farming. The best way to do this is tosafeguard rice against risky 'technologies' like geneticengineering, and invest in productive and ecological farming methodsthat are not dependent on harmful chemical inputs.

Governmentsin Southeast Asia should issue an outright ban on GE (geneticallyengineered) crops, particularly GE rice. GE crops threaten farmers'livelihoods and pose irreversible damage to the environment. Because thecorporate backers of GE rice encourage monoculture plantations whichreduce diversity, GE crops increase the risk to worldwide riceproduction posed by global warming.

Rice is themost important food crop in Southeast Asia - accounting for around 25percent of the total world rice production in 2008. But rice productionin countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand facesthreats from profit-driven bio-tech corporations.

Farming in the face of climate change

Southeast Asia is the world's leading agricultural producer - but atthe same time it is incredibly vulnerable to disasters caused byclimate change. An Asian Development Bank (ADB) study released last Aprilrevealed that if global action is not taken, climate change will causea serious decline in rice production in countries such as Indonesia,the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Climatechange will profoundly affect agriculture worldwide. Food security inmany countries is under threat from unpredictable changes in rainfalland more frequent extreme weather. Seventy percent of the world'sextreme poverty is found in agricultural areas where farmers depend onrain for their harvests - where too much or too little rain spellsdisaster. Governments need to recognise that agriculture isparticularly vulnerable to climate change and they must ensureadaptation strategies are based on sustainable agricultural techniques.

In our report " Food Security and Climate Change"we review recent scientific studies that underline the most effectivestrategy to adapt agriculture to climate change - increasingagricultural biodiversity. A mix of different crops and varieties inone field is a proven and highly reliable farming method to increaseresilience to erratic weather changes. And, the best ways to increasestress tolerance in single varieties are modern breeding technologiesthat do not entail genetic tampering.

In addition tosafeguarding agriculture against climate change - it is essential torecognise that agriculture itself is one of the largest emitters ofgreenhouse gases. Our 'Cool Farming'report details the destructive practices resulting from industrialagriculture and presents workable solutions to help reduce itscontribution to climate change. These practical changes will benefitthe environment as well as farmers and consumers throughout the worldwithout the use of dangerous genetically engineered crops.

Weare campaigning for GE-free crop and food production grounded on theprinciples of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and providingall people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering isan unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates theenvironment, threatens biodiversity and may pose risks to our health.

Take Action

Ask governments worldwide to protect consumers and farmers, their crops and fields by rejecting GE Rice

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