UN World Food Day - Asians Call for Ban on GE Rice

Feature story - October 14, 2005
Bangkok, 14 October 2005 -- A coalition of 17 organisations from across Asia today issued a World Food Day statement calling for a global ban on the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) rice.

Representatives from a coalition of 17 organisations from across Asia wearing traditional dresses hold basket of collection of rice varieties pose for photographers at the FAO headquarters during a rally to deliver the GE-Free rice declaration for today issued a World Food Day statement calling for a global ban of the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) rice. In the declaration, the group called for a ban on the development and cultivation of GE rice, and called upon the FAO to cease support for GE crops, and to instead support the development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems.

Diderik de Vleeschauwer, Information Officer of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2 from L) receives a statement from member of a coalition of 17 organisations from across Asia at the FAO headquarters during a rally to deliver the GE-Free rice declaration for today issued a World Food Day statement calling for a global ban of the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) rice. In the declaration, the group called for a ban on the development and cultivation of GE rice, and called upon the FAO to cease support for GE crops, and to instead support the development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems.

"Rice is the world's most important staple food crop and we simply cannot allow a small number of biotech companies and GE scientists to determine the future of rice development," said Varoonvarn Svangsopakul of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "GE rice is not a solution to world hunger. It poses unacceptable risks

to health and the environment, as well as people's livelihoods."

The aggressive push from biotechnology companies wanting to introduce GE rice in Asia is facing increasing criticism from civil society organisations concerned about negative impacts on farmers, on the environment, health and agricultural sustainability.

The theme of this year's World Food Day sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is Agriculture and intercultural dialogue -celebrating the contribution of different cultures to world agriculture.

"GE rice poses threats to the centre of origin and diversity of rice in Asia, as well as the cultural diversity of rice-growing communities across the region. The introduction of GE rice is contradictory to the theme of this  year's World Food Day celebration," said Dr Suman Sahai from Gene Campaign, India.

"The real way forward for sustainable agriculture and solution for hunger is through the protection and use of biodiversity rather than genetic engineering, and the promotion of ecological agriculture based on the traditional knowledge of farming communities," said Paul Borja, SEARICE, based in the Philippines.

"Bangladesh farmers have a long tradition of maintaining local rice diversity and they are resisting Syngenta's move to introduce Golden Rice," said Palash Baral, from UBINIG Bangladesh.

"With breeding and growing local rice varieties, Thailand farmers are able to enjoy nutritious food and stabilize their income," said Supanee Taneewut,RRAFA, Thailand.

Following a 2-day meeting outside Bangkok, representatives from 10 rice growing countries wearing traditional dresses will today deliver the GE-Free Rice Declaration to the FAO headquarters in Bangkok, along with a collection of rice varieties as a demonstration of the importance of maintaining rice diversity.

In the declaration, the group called for a ban on the development and cultivation of GE rice, and called upon the FAO to cease support for GE crops, and to instead support the development of sustainable, ecologically sound farming systems."

For further information contact

Uaphan Chamnan-Ua, Greenpeace Southeast Asia media officer: +661 9282426

Varoonvarn Svangsopakul, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner: +661 9297373

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