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GM-free rice victory for farmers and consumers

1.GE-free rice: victory for farmers and consumers in Southeast Asia!
2.World's biggest rice exporter sets GE-free rice policy
3.Philippines asked to ban genetically-modified crops
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1.GE-free rice: victory for farmers and consumers in Southeast Asia!
Natwipha Ewasakul
Greenpeace, June 2 2011
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/ge-free-rice-victory-for-farmers-and-consumer/blog/35096

This week is Rice and Farmers' week in Thailand 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, everyone 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.

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 in the face of genetically-engineered rice in 2008.  Getting the government to keep Thai rice safe was more challenging.  But Thai activists, volunteers and consumers 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, celebrated rice production in Thailand and was a reminder to the Thai Government to protect the country's most important food crop from the imminent threat of genetic engineering.

Greenpeace unveiled a massive living sculpture in an organic rice field to celebrate Southeast Asia's rich natural heritage in rice production, while at the same time reminding governments to protect the region’s most important food crop from the imminent threat of genetic engineering, as well as from the grave impacts of climatechange.

Today, in keeping with the festivities, we're unveiling a 3D hand painted scene of an organic farm with agricultural biodiversity, an illustration of healthy, ecological farming.  Learn more about this massive ‘pavement artwork,’ first launched with the first citizens initiative in in Europe, a million signatures for a sustainable and secure future of food.

The country this week celebrates Thai Farmers’ Day, which honours Thai rice farmers, the backbone of Thai society.  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.

Greenpeace is calling for a continuation of the GE free rice policy as the MoA drafts the next Rice Strategy in the government plans.
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2.World's biggest rice exporter sets GE-free rice policy
The Manila Bulletin, June 2 2011
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/320921/world-s-biggest-rice-exporter-sets-gefree-rice-policy

Manila, Philippines Greenpeace today called on the Philippine government to follow the example of Thailand, the world’s top rice exporter, and commit to keep rice production free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).  The call came as farmers and environmental activists in Thailand celebrated Thai Rice and Farmers’ Day commending the country’s GE-free rice policy.

The GE-free rice policy, a key strategy in Thailand's Rice Masterplan, not only protects rice farmers and consumers, but also safeguards Thailand's thousands-year old rice heritage from the inherent risks posed by genetically-engineered (GE) crops.  The strategy is widely seen as an acknowledgement embedded in government policy that GE crops are unnecessary and a risk to sustainable future for farming.

"This strategy gives Southeast Asia's rice farmers and consumers reason to celebrate -- and it's a blow for unscrupulous GMO crop promoters.  A major global rice producer and exporter acknowledges that GMOs are a bad option for rice production.  The Department of Agriculture should follow the Thai example and declare their commitment to keep rice farming sustainable and rice crops free of environmental and health risks associated with GE crops," said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Greenpeace maintains that GMOs threaten the future and biodiversity of rice, and will make farming dependent on agricultural inputs exclusively owned by giant multinational corporations who control GMO technologies.

Rice is the staple diet in Southeast Asia.  But countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are being targeted by GMO promoters as guinea pigs for experimental””and risky””GE crops.    Unchecked and unregulated corporate interest has made the Philippines a particularly vulnerable target.   In 2007, tons of GMO-contaminated rice from Bayer was shipped undetected to the country from the US.    The said rice was sold and distributed in the Philippines, despite the fact that it was unapproved and illegal for human consumption.

The Thai GE-free policy is 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.  Currently, GMO promoters are studying the release of experimental GMO rice strains in the Philippines and neighbouring ASEAN countries, a move that will expose valuable rice varieties to massive contamination.

Greenpeace is campaigning for GMO-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity, and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food.

"This shows how the need for agriculture that is good for the planet and people is important to the country and the economy.  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.  GMO crops are bad for food and farming and this demand is shared by people throughout the region and the world," said Ocampo.

As part of the events in Bangkok, Greenpeace unveiled a gigantic eco-friendly 3D artwork of an organic farm, an illustration of healthy, ecological farming. The 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 of people around the world who aspire for the sustainable and secure future of food.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.
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3.Philippines asked to ban genetically-modified crops
Sun Star, June 3 2011
http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/business/2011/06/03/philippines-asked-ban-genetically-modified-crops-159207

A GLOBAL environmental group on Friday said the Philippines should emulate Thailand, which recently passed a policy discouraging the use of genetically-modified organisms in boosting rice production.

The policy not only protects rice farmers and consumers, but also safeguards Thailand's thousands-year-old rice heritage from the inherent risks posed by genetically-engineered (GE) crops, Greenpeace Philippines said in a statement.

Thailand is currently the world's top exporter of rice, shipping at least nine million metric tons (MT) to other countries, including the Philippines.

Other rice-producing nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia are being targeted by GMO promoters as "guinea pigs" for experimental - and risky - GE crops, Greenpeace said.

In 2007, Greenpeace recalled that tons of GMO-contaminated rice from Bayer was shipped undetected to the country from the United States.

The said rice was sold and distributed in the Philippines, despite the fact that it was unapproved and illegal for human consumption.

At present, no country has approved GMO rice except the US where it is still not commercially grown.

"GMO crops are bad for food and farming and this demand is shared by people throughout the region and the world," Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.

Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture (DA), declined to comment on the issue.

Last Thursday, the government released P3.43 billion to support farmers increase their yields towards achieving rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

Under the National Rice Program, farmers are provided with quality seeds, irrigation, credit and marketing assistance to improve farm productivity and profitability.

The total budget for the National Rice Program for 2011 is P5.217 billion.

In its roadmap, the DA said paddy production is expected to hit 17.45 million MT this year.

This will be increased by 10 percent to 19.2 million MT in 2012 and by another 10 percent to 21.11 million MT in 2013.