Greenpeace begins harvesting of organic rice art in Ratchaburi

Press release - October 31, 2009
Greenpeace today announced the commencement of the first phase of harvesting from the giant organic rice art project in Ratchaburi, beginning with the green rice variety. Greenpeace volunteers in Thailand planted the first 'Rice Art' project, as a celebration of Southeast Asia's long heritage of rice cultivation, and to raise awareness about the importance of this staple crop, on which so many of the world's population depend.

The 'Rice Art' covers an area of 1.6 hectares and depicts farmers wearing straw hats and using sickles to harvest rice - reflecting the traditions and way of life of rice farmers. We planted our work of art in Thailand's Central Plains - an area recognised for being one of Southeast Asia's most fertile rice producing regions -- with two colo­urs of organic rice. One is an irrigated local rice variety that appears green from above, and the second is a traditional black rice variety.

"The Government of Thailand should issue an outright ban on GE (genetically engineered) crops, particularly GE rice. GE crops threaten farmers' livelihoods and pose irreversible damage to the environment. In addition to the unknown impacts of GE crop technology on our environment, we become dependent on the seed packages containing chemical herbicides that also harm the environment and can push farmers like me into debt, "said 62-year old rice farmer Khun Samnieng Huadlim, who donated some of her land for the Rice Art project.

Khun Samnieng Huadlim joined Spanish and Swedish farmers in Brussels on 15 October to present the EU Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou, with Greenpeace's 180,000-strong petition against potential legislation authorising the introduction of GE rice in Europe.

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

Greenpeace demands that this rich rice heritage must be protected through sustainable rice farming. The best way to do this is to safeguard rice against risky 'technologies' like genetic engineering, and invest in productive and ecological farming methods that are not dependent on harmful chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

"Today we begin the harvesting of this unique rice field in the hope that Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will heed our repeated appeals and permanently ban genetically engineered food crops from our country to protect our economy, environment and pride. Thailand has a rich heritage of traditional and sustainable agricultural practices that will help ensure food security for future generations. We call upon Abhisit Vejjajiva to visit this field and to commit to defending Thai farmers from multinational corporations which are only driven by profit," said Natwipha Ewaskul, Greeenpeace Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner.

"The current industrial farming system, which depends on fossil fuels and the use of harmful chemicals, ignores thousands of years of rich traditional farming knowledge. This only benefits multinational agricultural corporations, and is environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable. Ecological farming produces nutritionally rich and chemical-free food, at the same time as protecting biodiversity and nutrient-rich soils. In contrast, the heavy use of chemical herbicides required for GE and conventional agriculture is damaging to crops, the environment and to farmers livelihoods." Natwipha concluded.

Other contacts: Natwipha Ewasakul, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Tel: 085-843-7300

VVPR info: Wiriya Kingwatcharapong, Media Campaigner, Tel: 089-487-0678