Greenpeace installs ‘historical’ marker in IRRI compound

Los Baños, Laguna, 14 April 2010 — Greenpeace activists today delivered puto (rice cake) to the International Rice Research Institute on its 50th birthday, carrying the message “IRRI GO GE-Free!” and installed a ‘historical’ marker at the premises, to call on the Philippine-based rice center to abandon the development of genetically-engineered (GE) rice varieties. The call came as IRRI unveiled its actual historical marker on the day of its 50th anniversary.

“Greenpeace is opposed to all GE rice research being undertaken by the IRRI. This rice cake and marker is meant to remind IRRI that its mission ‘to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers and ensure that rice production is environmentally sustainable’ can never be achieved through GE rice,” said Natwipha Ewasakul, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture campaigner.

“IRRI must realize that GE crops are part of an outdated industrial agriculture model that continues the use of environmentally harmful chemicals, and is failing to provide solutions for food crises and climate change,” she added.

IRRI currently devotes part of its resources to costly GE (or genetically modified) rice development, such as yellow rice and “C4” rice(1). GE crops, however, have already been debunked as a viable option to address the challenges of food security and climate change. In the first comprehensive global assessment of agricultural development presented by the UN’s International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology (IAASTD) in 2008, 400 scientists who participated in the review concluded that GE crops are not a priority for feeding the world in 2050, and that business-as-usual is not an option for the future of agriculture.(2)

On the basis of IAASTD recommendations, Greenpeace is demanding that IRRI 1) stop field trials of GE rice; 2) stop GE rice research programs; 3) shift resources towards the development of conventional and new technologies (for example Marker Assisted Selection or MAS) within a framework of ecological rice farming that is resilient to the impacts of climate change; and 4) focus investment and research on improving the environmental and ecological aspects of rice production such as reducing use of synthetic fertilizers; phasing out pesticides and developing ecological state-of-the-art solutions to rice production.

“Technological solutions presented as silver bullets to solve hunger or malnutrition, such as GE crops, shift the focus away from the real solutions and hide the true causes of hunger which derive from social and environmental problems. On its 50th birthday, IRRI has a chance to change its direction away from the current unsustainable rice farming practices dependent on fossil fuels, toxic inputs and GE varieties. The future direction of IRRI should be toward ecological farming models,” said Natwipha.