War in the rice fields (28/12/2007)

NOTE: One of the great campaigns of this last year was the 'Save our Rice Campaign' of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). Here's their wide-ranging RICE NEWSLETTER.

Good to see the theme for their Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2008 (2 - 8 April) is to be 'No to GE Rice in Asia', promoting 8 April as International No GE Day.

EXTRACT: As of 31 October, 1,124,304 peasant farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, activists and consumers in 13 countries in Asia had signed the petition... launched as part of the Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007. WORA was a mass mobilization of over a million people... organised by PAN AP with its network partners in 13 countries in Asia...

The Statement states... 'Agri-business has paved the way for hybrid rice and genetically-engineered (GE) rice such as Golden Rice, Bt Rice and Liberty Link Rice, causing not only the loss of strong and unique local and traditional rice varieties but their contamination as well. Although GE is touted as the solution to world hunger, in reality, it will only make the problem of world hunger worse.'



Bulletin by the Save our Rice Campaign, PAN AP






QUEZON CITY: It may not have landed on the front page, but a ruling issued recently by Branch 101 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City was a landmark decision nonetheless.

Following up on a temporary restraining order she issued earlier, RTC Judge Evangeline Marigomen stopped the Department of Agriculture from approving a rice strain derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which a multinational company was poised to commercially propagate in the Philippines.

Judge Marigomen's preliminary injunction order was the latest development in an ongoing court case filed by the environmental group, Greenpeace and the non-governmental organization, SEARICE.

The anti-GMO plaintiffs questioned the constitutionality of DA Administrative Order No. 8-2002, the government's system for GMO approvals. The environment advocates have repeatedly asserted that the system is 'hopelessly flawed' and violates basic constitutional rights.

Greenpeace and SEARICE helped file the court plea against the government’s policy on GMOs last August. The petition sought a permanent injunction on the approval of Bayer Cropscience Corporation’s genetically modified rice Liberty Link 62 whose application is being reviewed by the DA, through its Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

Bayer's LL62 rice has been approved for commercial distribution only in the United States.

In her injunction order, Judge Marigomen said, 'A sampling of the petitioners' evidence shows that there is a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights 1) to information of public concern, 2) protection and promotion of health, and 3) a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.'

Judge Marigomen’s injunction order is the first major ruling on GMOs in the Philippines since 2002 when the government allowed the entry of genetically altered crops.

Source: Manila Times, 24 September 2007


NEW DELHI: India's rice fields are witnessing a strange battle now - a fight of the traditional versus the modern.

While the genetically modified (GM) crops represent the modern, the age old methods and seeds of the common Indian farmer stand for the traditional side.

The war recently took an ugly turn when farmers in Haryana and Tamil Nadu destroyed the field trial plots of the GM rice. The farmers were protesting against the sly move to introduce the GM rice variety into the country. These experimental rice fields were being monitored by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) on behalf of the American agrobusiness firm Monsanto.

The campaign against the GM rice got a shot in the arm a few weeks earlier following the decision of certain European Union countries to ban the import of American rice, fearing contamination by the GM rice strain Liberty Line (LL-601).

Indian farmers who campaign against the GM rice trials celebrated their first victory recently following the Union Commerce Ministry's decision to tell Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to approve field trials of GM crops in Basmati rice-growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and western Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is planning to embrace the GM-regime in a big way. Last week, Kausar Abdullah, member Planning Commission on Agriculture, revealed that efforts were underway for approval of all BT (Bio-technology) varieties as soon as possible to adopt them in an organised manner for cultivation all over the country.

Source: Commodity Online, 5 October 2007 http://www.commodityonline.com/news/topstory/n



CHICAGO: Trace amounts of genetically modified varieties of rice that were found co-mingled in the U.S. rice supply in 2006 caused more than $1.2 billion in damages and additional costs, the environmental group Greenpeace International said on Monday.

U.S. rice exports fell sharply after Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer, reported in 2006 that trace amounts of its biotech LibertyLink rice variety LLRICE601 were found in a widely grown variety of U.S . rice called Cheniere. Later, a second variety called Clearfield 131 was found to be contaminated with LLRICE604.

The discovery of GMO-tainted rice triggered the largest financial and marketing disaster in the history of the U.S. rice industry, according to Greenpeace. At least 30 countries were affected by the contamination and many mclosed their markets to U.S. rice, including major importers such as the European Union and the Philippines.

The overall cost to the industry, estimated at $1.2 billion, included losses of up to $253 million from food-product recalls in Europe, U.S. export losses of $254 million in the 2006/07 crop year and future export losses of $445 million, Greenpeace said.

Hundreds of U.S. farmers and European businesses have filed lawsuits against Bayer in attempts to recoup their losses, reported the environmental group.

Source: Reuters, 5 November 2007



QUEZON CITY: At a press conference on November 7, 2007, the Resistance and Solidarity against Agrochemical TNCs (RESIST) network and Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) together with the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) decried the report that genetically-modified (GM)-tainted rice is being sold in the Philippines like the Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice, a variety that has been allegedly contaminated with the unapproved Liberty Link (LL) Rice 601. It is being sold in leading supermarkets in Metro Manila, including Robinson’s, Shopwise, SM Megamall and SM North.

Book Launching

The group also launched the book called 'The Great Rice Robbery- A Handbook on the impact of IRRI in Asia'. Several authors from the Philippines and India contributed to this book published by PAN AP in collaboration with Sibolng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) of the Philippines.

Repeal P.D. 1620

RESIST brought up the Presidential Decree (P.D.) 1620, enacted by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. They said that P.D. 1620 justified the grant of international status to IRRI on the grounds that it was necessary for the institution’s pursuit of its research tasks.

'Labor cases of IRRI have always been ruled out because of the institute’s immunity through P.D. 1620. The law has caused more than enough misery to former IRRI workers. The immunity provided by PD 1620, IRRI is above any law in the Philippines. This law is a mockery of Philippine sovereignty and gives IRRI a license to violate with impunity Philippine labor laws,' said Rafael Mariano, National Chairperson of KMP and President of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Party-list.

'To effectively address the issue of IRRI workers, it is most urgent and necessary to repeal P.D. 1620 to right this wrong and ensure the protection of the rights of workers in IRRI in accordance with Philippine Constitution, laws and commitments to international conventions of which the country is a signatory,', stressed Mariano.

Mariano shared that on August 1, 2007, House Bill 1726 or 'An Act Protecting the Rights of Workers of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as Enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, Repealing for Purpose Presidential Decree 1620, the Decree Granting the Status, Prerogatives, Privileges and Immunities of an International Organization' was filed by representatives Crispin Beltran (Anakpawis Partylist); Satur C. Ocampo and Teodoro A. Casiño (both from Bayan Muna Partylist); and Liza Largoza-Maza, and Luzviminda Ilagan (both from Gabriela Women’s Party).

This action will pave the way to restore the rights of IRRI employees and workers as the only recourse left to them is the intervention of the Philippine legislature. It is earnestly sought that this bill be approved immediately.

Source: RESIST Press Release, 10 November 2007


BEIJING: The environmental group, Greenpeace, said unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) rice from the United States was found in Beijing's supermarkets.

China does not allow sales and imports of GMO rice as rice is the staple food for most of the country's population, though it does allow imports, particularly GMO soybeans and corn, to be processed into products, or used as animal feed.

Greenpeace in Beijing collected 10 U.S food samples from two supermarkets in Beijing in August and September and testing showed one of the samples contained Liberty Link rice strain, it said in a statement. China is not a big rice importer from the United States.

A Ministry of Agriculture biosafety official told Reuters that the ministry was investigating the case. There was no immediate comment from the U.S embassy in Beijing.

Greenpeace two years ago said it had found GMO rice being sold in markets in Chinese cities in the south. The strain was being test-grown at a university in Wuhan, central Hubei province.

Source: Reuters, 20 November 2007


* Greenpeace also reported that it had commissioned IPSOS, a global marketing research company, to carry out a survey in 2007, and the result found that 77% of the respondents in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou prefer non- GE rice to GE rice. (Greenpeace, 20 November 2007)


PENANG: Rice farmers, consumers and citizens groups throughout Asia want corporate agriculture to stay away from their staple crop, and over one million of them (1,124, 304) have made their views known loud and clear.

That’s the number of people who have signed a petition called the People's Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia calling on the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and all policy makers to save the crop that is central to the Asian way of life; its culture, spirituality, traditions and norms.

'This is testimony to the overwhelming support for the calls in the Statement and to the grave concerns of the people of Asia over the threats to our small rice farmers, rice lands, rice culture, and rice sovereignty,' said Ms Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, which is coordinating the Save Our Rice Campaign in the region, when announcing the final tally of the signature drive.

As of 31 October, 1,124,304 peasant farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, activists and consumers in 13 countries in Asia had signed the petition that is addressed to all policy makers of food and agricultural policies including national governments of the countries where the signature drive was carried out.

The People’s Statement was launched as part of the Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007. WORA was a mass mobilization of over a million people mainly peasants, agricultural workers, indigenous people, rural women and consumers. It was organised by PAN AP with its network partners in 13 countries in Asia China, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh from 29 March to 4 April this year.

The Statement states that threats facing rice, which has been grown in Asia for the last 7,000 years at least, are being aggravated by globalisation, the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), trade liberalisation policies and corporate agriculture all of which are wiping out peasant rice farmers all over Asia as well as small rural entrepreneurs who depend on rice for their livelihoods.

'Agri-business has paved the way for hybrid rice and genetically-engineered (GE) rice such as Golden Rice, Bt Rice and Liberty Link Rice, causing not only the loss of strong and unique local and traditional rice varieties but their contamination as well. Although GE is touted as the solution to world hunger, in reality, it will only make the problem of world hunger worse,' the statement adds. It is widely recognized that the answer to poverty lies in the socially just distribution of resources.

The campaign organisers have handed over the signature petition to the FAO in a meeting with Mr. Yasuo Endo, the Director of Strategic Planning Unit (Office of the Director General) in Rome on 16 November 2007 in conjunction with the FAO Council Session and Conference. The FAO promised a response which has not been forthcoming to date. The Statement was also sent to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). One of the calls in the Statement was for the closure of IRRI. The full People’s Statement can be viewed at www.panap.net.

Source: PAN AP Press Release, 10 December 2007


The Rice Advisory Council of PAN AP’s Save Our Rice Campaign had a momentous meeting last October as the campaign reached the end of its first funding period. An evaluation workshop to analyse the campaign’s achievements for the first four years was part of the meeting’s agenda. It became clear from the evaluation exercise that the campaign had exceeded the expectations of the first advisory group that met in 2003 to set it up and that the campaign had kept true to the Five Pillars of Rice Wisdom.

Key regional events were the People’s Camp on Food Sovereignty in Hong Kong in 2005, the IRRI Tribunal in April 2006, the Workshop on GE Rice/Crops Risk Assessment in China in June 2006, and the Week of Rice Action 2007 which was the most massive mobilisation of people.

Other notable achievements were supporting the formation of Thanal’s rice campaign, collecting over one million signatures for the People’s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia 2007, and coming out with relevant publications. The People’s Statement would be used for policy advocacy at the national, regional and international levels.

The Campaign had also introduced the first Rice Journalist Award and the competition yielded 21 nominations and one winner, KPM Basheer, from Kerala, India who wrote on 'The Shrinking Fields of Pokkali' and won himself a rice-exposure trip to Korea.

For the next phase of the campaign, the Council set out conferences, training, research, policy advocacy and information outreach areas of focus. It also formed working groups on land, agricultural workers and youth so as to ensure due attention to these areas. Finally, the meeting decided on the theme for WORA 2008 ('No to GE Rice in Asia') and the dates (2 - 8 April), promoting 8 April as International No GE Day. Volunteers to host the WORA 2008 culmination were ANPFa (Nepal), KRKP (Indonesia) and Vikalpani (Sri Lanka), the final location to be decided in due course.

The tentative theme set for WORA 2009 was Biodiversity Based Ecological Agriculture while the year 2009-2010 would be the Year of Rice Action (YORA) culminating in a major mobilisation against IRRI on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in April 2010.



PAN International celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a conference in Penang from 30 November to 2 December 2007. On the evening of the third day of the conference, a Rice Evening was held to recognise and celebrate the importance of rice as the world's leading staple food and the crucial role of ecological rice farmers by honouring exemplary rice farmers who defended rice farmers’ rights.

For Asia, Rafael Mariano from the Philippines was selected by the regional coordinators (the Cores) of PAN International to receive the award. The other recipients were from North America. They were the Anashinaabeg Wild Ricers of the North Minnesota Lakes Region; and Greg Massa and Raquel Krach of Massa Organics, California the former are an indigenous community of rice growers and the latter are organic rice farmers.

Dato’ Dr. Anwar Fazal, founding ‘father’ of PAN, presented the (rice) Sickle of Honour and a book on rice to the recipients (*the North American recipients were not able to be present so delegates from PANNA received the gifts on their behalf.) The 'honorees' exchanged seeds as a gesture of farmer-based seed conservation and exchange.

Those present at the Rice Evening were also delighted and entertained by three colourful and lively Malaysian rice dances.


Save our Rice Campaign, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia. Tel: (60) 4-657 0271 / 656 0381; Fax: (+60) 4-658 3960;

E-mail: [email protected]/ [email protected]; URL: www.panap.net/ricecampaign

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