jueves, mayo 13, 2004

Rice Solutions

The Farming Solutions web site is launching this year Rice Solutions, a series of articles that will focus on sustainable ways of growing rice and the upcoming threat of genetically engineered rice. Here is a statement from the web page:

Rice Solutions Series

The year 2004 has been declared the International Year of Rice (IYR) by the United Nations, and responsibility was assigned to the FAO. At the 17th session of the FAO Committee on Agriculture (Rome, 31 March-4 April 2003), the importance of IYR was stated as follows:

“Observance of the IYR provides an opportunity to celebrate and promote the ecological, social and cultural diversity of rice-based production systems as a prism through which key global concerns can be addressed: poverty and hunger alleviation, under-nourishment, food safety, environmental protection, sustainable use of scarce resources, equity and evolving scientific applications for food production. The IYR is expected to promote efficient and sustainable rice development through combined and mutually beneficial action by the entire community of interests addressing the challenges and opportunities facing production, consumption, marketing and trade of this highly strategic food.”

It is clear that IYR will initiate far-reaching debates on food security and food sovereignty, how rice production and productivity will be increased, and the risks and promises of new agricultural technologies. Such issues – with rice as its focal point – take us to the very heart of the debate over globalization, corporate control and food sovereignty. For mass-based and grassroots organizations in Asia, there is an urgent need to ensure that small farmers, agricultural workers and their communities intervene actively in this debate, challenging the narrow economic logic of trade and productivity with more fundamental social, cultural and ecological perspectives.

As such, IYR presents a critical opportunity to expose the threat of corporate control over rice, including the threat of genetically engineered (GE) rice. T

he prospect of the release of GE rice into the environment – in field trials as well as commercialization – poses one of the newest threats to rice biodiversity, culture and farmers’ livelihoods. The ecological damage would be uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in long-term cultural and socio-economic impacts, including food security. This generates new obstacles to achieving ecologically sustainable agriculture, and in particular would undermine traditional farming practices that have the potential to lead to sustainable agriculture and that hold cultural meaning and values.

While most GE rice varieties remain ‘myth GMOs’ that are more than a decade away from becoming a reality, the fact is that open-air field trials of GE rice already in several locations around the world – including Asia. It is widely expected that IYR will be used by agro-chemical/GE corporations such as Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto to dramatically increase government support for GE rice in Asia – presenting it as a ‘solution’ for rice farmers and their communities. This comes at a time when there is already extensive corporate influence in public rice research, agricultural R&D and food/agriculture policies.

In response to corporate pressure on governments to support/approve GE rice, it is necessary to increase public understanding of the very real ecological, social and cultural threats posed by GE rice. This also entails the provision of alternative sources of economic, environmental and scientific information to local government officials, scientists and other decision-makers.

It is this context that we will present a series of articles on ecologically sustainable rice farming that draws from farmers’ experiences and incorporates the cultural, social and economic rights of rural communities.

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