"Hands off our rice!"

Defending South East Asia's most loved food

Feature story - March 18, 2009
The iconic Philippine rice terraces in Ifugao, a UNESCO World Heritage site, have been declared a 'GMO - Free Zone'. And the first 'rice art' was planted in Thailand as a symbol of solidarity against genetically modified rice.

Hundreds of Greenpeace supporters, volunteers and farmers plant organic rice in a bid to create the first ever ‘art ‘ rice field in Ratchaburi province. The 10-rai rice field in will grow into an artwork design in the next 4 months depicting farmers harvesting rice.

Genetically modified rice has not been approved for human consumption or commercial propagation anywhere in the world. But an application for the approval of a genetically modified rice variety is pending at the Philippine Department of Agriculture and despite Thailand prohibiting all GMOs (genetically modified organisms) we are increasingly worried about powerful agro-chemical companies pushing for this ban to be lifted.

GMO-free Philippines

To commemorate the Ifugao declaration made by the local Governor and Mayor, Greenpeace volunteers together with local guides unfurled a giant banner with the words "GMO-Free Zone" at the site. There was also a public unveiling of a permanent marker containing the declaration featuring speeches from the local dignitaries.

"The Ifugao people, guardians of this living cultural heritage of humanity, shall keep the Ifugao Rice Terraces a GMO-Free Zone as it has always been for generations. The Ifugaos shall protect the Ifugao Rice Terraces from GMO contamination and other forms of interventions that would diminish the integrity and universal value of the Ifugao Rice Terraces, so that it will continue to be a living testimony of the harmonious relationship of man and nature," said Governor Baguilat.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces, with a total area of about 10,360 square kilometers, have been in existence for more than 3000 years. In 1995, they were inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List as "a living cultural landscape of great beauty that exemplifies the perfect interweaving of natural and cultural values in a sustainable manner." Ifugao people have traditionally planted rice in the terraces without the use of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides and have freely traded seeds, among them the famous Tinawon organic rice.

A first for Thailand

Hundreds of our supporters, volunteers and farmers planted organic rice in Ratchaburi province, in a bid to create the first work of art made in a rice field in Thailand. We used two varieties of rice seedlings that will generate green and purple colour in the field when fully grown in 4 months -- depicting farmers harvesting rice.

Thailand is a country deeply rooted in farming traditions and farmers are considered the backbone of the nation. Upon our nomination, the Guinness Book of World Records has also certified Thailand as the largest exporter of rice in the world, accounting for 27 percent of all rice traded in world markets.

Since Thailand is a leader in rice farming it should also lead in sustainable ways of growing rice. By going organic, Thailand can show the world that there are innovative natural ways to grow rice and also send the message to agro-chemical companies that toxic pesticides and risky technologies like genetic engineering are unnecessary and unwanted.

GMOs threaten Asian heritage

Our campaign for GMO-free crop and food production is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. The rich rice heritage in Asia is threatened by GMO crops that pose risks to biodiversity, human health, farmers' livelihoods and consumer choices. We're demanding that the government of the Philippines issue an outright ban on GMO crops, especially GMO rice and we are calling on the Thai government to officially reject GMO rice. 

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