GE-free rice policy: a celebration for farmers and consumers in Southeast Asia!

Feature story - June 2, 2011
This week is Thai Rice and Farmers’ week and we’re celebrating a little known and un-publicized Thai agricultural policy that protects Thai rice from the risks of genetically-modified organisms. Because of the policy, farmers and consumers – around the world, not just in Thailand – have a reason to be happy: it is a public acknowledgement embedded in government policy that genetically-engineered crops are unnecessary and a risk to a sustainable future for farming.

Thais have a clear vision of the way to sustainable rice farming—and GMOs are not part of the equation.

The Thai Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has laid out this policy in their “Rice Strategy,” a master plan committed to strengthening the nation’s rice production while promoting farmers’ livelihoods and consumer confidence.  Keeping Thai rice GMO-free means that Thailand maintains its global leadership in rice production.

The policy also protects Thailand’s thousands-year old rice heritage from the inherent risks carried by genetically-engineered crops, risks that could threaten the future—and diversity—of the country’s treasured rice varieties.

But it’s not just Thailand who stands to benefit from such a bold move.  Consumers around the world know that they can trust Thai rice.  Thailand, home to some of the best rice in the world such as the fragrant Hom Mali (jasmine) rice, is one of the largest exporters of rice in the world.  In 2008 Greenpeace unveiled the Guinness World Record certifying Thailand as the largest exporter of rice, accounting (at that time) for 27% of all rice traded in the world.

Thailand’s Rice Exporters Association was one of the first to slam their doors against genetically-engineered rice in 2008.  Getting the government to keep Thai rice safe was more challenging.  But activists, cyberactivists, volunteers and consumers from all around Thailand continued to show their love for Thai rice by persistently calling on the government to protect rice from GMOs.

In 2009, we presented a living sculpture on an organic rice field.  The rice art, planted by farmers and volunteers and depicting farmers at rice harvest, meant to celebrate rice production in Thailand while at the same time reminding the Thai Government to protect the country’s most important food crop from the imminent threat of genetic engineering.

Greenpeace welcomes and supports the Thai Government’s GE-free rice strategy, and is calling for its continuation beyond 2012.

Today, in keeping with the festivities, we’re unveiling a gigantic eco-friendly 3-dimentional artwork of an organic farm, an illustration of healthy, ecological farming.  This massive ‘pavement artwork,’ first launched with a signature petition for GE-free farming by 1 million people in front of the European Commission in Brussels in December 2010, stands for the millions people around the world who aspire for a sustainable and secure future of food.

The celebration could not have come at a better time.  The country this week celebrates Thai Farmers’ Day, which honours Thai rice farmers, the backbone of Thai society.  It’s doubly significant because this week on June 5 we also celebrate World Environment Day.  Rice is the staple food for billions of people around the world.  Other governments should follow Thailand’s example.  A healthy environment means healthy people and food security for generations to come.