GMOs not the answer

Thai farmer shows EC a taste of natural farming

Press release - October 15, 2009
A Thai woman is one of three farmers from around the world who are bringing the issue of the rejection of genetically modified (GMO) crops right to the European Commission’s front doorstep today. The farmers are meeting European Commissioner for health, Androulla Vassiliou, and joining Greenpeace in handing over a petition signed by 180,000 people to stop the authorisation of Bayer GMO rice.

Mrs. Samnieng Huadlim, aged 62, a rice farmer from Ratchaburi province, 120 kilometres south of Bangkok, is visiting the European Commission to talk about her successful experiences using ecological farming methods.  Her farm is currently being showcased around the world with its organic rice-art which features traditional Thai farmers harvesting the country's most important food crop.  Thailand is the world's leading rice exporter (1) but its celebrated rice farms are currently under threat from possible GMO contamination.

"I am proud to show the European Commission how Thailand is one of the leading rice producers in the world-without the need for GMO rice 'technologies.'  Thailand's rice farmers are the backbone of our country's agriculture.  Traditional sustainable farming methods are better and safer.  If it is possible in Thailand, it should also be possible in the EU," said Samnieng Huadlim.

The farmers, of which the two others are from Spain and Sweden, are sharing testimonies 'from the field' about the destructive effects of GMO contamination, and contrasting it to their successful experiences with natural farming. The farmers have brought with them ecologically grown produce for a light organic brunch: maize, potatoes and rice, whose GMO-equivalents are awaiting authorisation from the European Commission.

"By signing the petition to stop the authorisation of GMO rice, people have shown that they do not want GMO food on their fields or on their plates," said Natwipha Ewasakul, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner. "GMO maize is already threatening the environment and the livelihoods of farmers in Europe.  The European experience with GMOs must not be repeated in Thailand to protect both farmers and consumers, and to ensure that Thai agriculture remains sustainable for the next generations."

Greenpeace is also presenting the report, 'Testimonies of Contamination', to the Commission.  The report documents the dangers of GMO contamination and the effects on the livelihoods of Europe's farmers and local communities.  Greenpeace believes that authorizing Bayer's GMO rice and other GMO crops will put the world's major staple foods at risk.

In contrast, ecological farming protects soils, water and natural habitats, produces healthy food and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Growing a mix of crops and varieties in one field is the most effective strategy to allow agriculture to adapt to climate change, increase resistance to diseases and decrease pesticide use.

Greenpeace is calling on the EC to protect our food and our farms by rejecting the authorisation of Bayer's GMO rice, BASF's GMO potato and Monsanto's MON810 GMO maize.

In Thailand, Greenpeace is calling on the Thai Government to issue an outright ban on GMOs, particularly GMO rice.  GMOs have never been proven safe for human consumption, threaten farmers' livelihoods and pose irreversible risks to the environment.

Other contacts: Natwipha Ewasakul Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner Tel: 085 843 7300 Wiriya Kingwatcharapong Media Campaigner Tel: 089 487 0678

Notes: (1) In January this year, Greenpeace unveiled the Guinness World Record certifying Thailand as the largest exporter of rice in the world with 8,094,000 tonnes of rice in 2007, which amounts to 27 percent of all rice traded in world markets.