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8-Misc: Asian discussions about GE agriculture

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TITLE:  A) Asian NGOs and farmers groups oppose genetically engineered rice
        B) Dark clouds with silver linings?
SOURCE: A) Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific
           sent by People's Caravan 2000, Malaysia
        B) Bangkok Post, by Supradit Kanwanich
           edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE:   A) November 3, 2000
        A) November 5, 2000

------------------ archive: ------------------

A) Asian NGOs and farmers groups oppose genetically engineered rice

Non governmental organisations, small farmers, landless peasants, farm 
workers and anti-genetic engineering advocates strongly oppose the 
introduction of genetically engineered rice and the increasing corporate 
control of rice research and seed systems across Asia.

For millions of people in Asia, rice is not just a daily source of 
calories, it is a part of their culture and heritage. "If we let the 
agrochemical industry take over our rice production systems, not only will 
our food security be at the mercy of profit hungry transnational 
corporations (TNCs), but also our culture, our land and our livelihoods," 
says Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network Asia 
and the Pacific (PAN AP).

Facing increasing rejection, the biotech industry, in its latest strategy, 
appears to be attempting to do this by gift wrapping its latest 
developments in genetically engineered rice in the guise of 'developing 
world friendly' concerns.

Promoting the welfare of small-marginalised farmers and working towards 
alleviating global malnutrition is the catchcry of the latest genetically 
engineered rice crop¸high yield vitamin A rice or 'golden rice'. Targeted 
for distribution to Asian farmers, 'free' of charge and 'without 
restrictions', 'golden rice' is being touted as a miracle cure for 
blindness¸"a break through in the efforts to improve the health of billions 
of poor people, most of them in Asia."

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will be one of the 
agencies involved in the transfer of the 'golden rice' trait to local 
hybrid varieties.

Rafael Mariano, Chairperson of KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines) 
says: "Research and development into genetically engineered rice undertaken 
by IRRI, like blight and blast resistant (BB) rice, is partly funded by the 
Rockefeller Foundation, the same supporter of the infamous and unsuccessful 
'miracle rice' of the 1960s."

Ms. Rengam, objects to the exploitation of the image of the poor and hungry 
as a public relations strategy to push a technology that is unsafe, 
unethical, exploitative, environmentally unfriendly and of no benefit 
economically to small-marginalised farmers.

"Golden rice' is really about clouding the real issues of poverty and the 
control of resources, serving to fast-track the wide scale acceptance and 
release of genetically engineered rice varieties throughout Asia," comments 
Mika Iba, Coordinator of the Japanese based Network for Safe and Secure 
Food and the Environment (NESSFE).

According to Philippines based MASIPAG, a farmer scientist coalition 
promoting organic and sustainable agriculture, the biotech industry and its 
allies already have 160 patent claims on rice with half belonging to the 
top 13 companies. Since 1986 an apomixis gene* for hybrid rice production; 
nitrogen (N)-fixing rice; Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) rice; BB rice; a 
perennial rice variety*; and micronutrient (vitamin A, iron and zinc) 
fortified rice strains have been, or are being developed.

Mr. Mariano says: "The powerful biotech industry is aggressively targeting 
southern agriculture, particularly rice, in an effort to open this 
lucrative market and take it over by creating dependency on agricultural 
genetic engineering technology."

To alert millions of people, particularly farmers and consumers, to the 
latest developments in genetic engineering, various farmers groups and anti-
pesticide advocates across the Asia-Pacific region will hold a People 's 
Caravan ÷ "Citizens on the Move for Land and Food Without Poisons!" from 
November 13-30.

Travelling through India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, the caravan aims 
to give these people a voice in counteracting and choosing alternatives to 
the exploitative, profit-driven motives of agrochemical TNCs.

According to Ms. Rengam: "The People's Caravan will inform farmers and 
consumers of local initiatives towards more sustainable healthy agriculture 
that embrace local/ traditional knowledge and practices as alternatives to 
corporate dependent systems."

*Explanatory notes: The apomixis gene will give the hybrid plant the 
ability produce offspring with the same traits as the parent as 
reproduction will be independent of the union of male and female floral 
parts (Source: Mga Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Ikauunlad ng Agham Pang-
Agrikultura (MASIPAG). MASIPAG News & Views. 2000. 'GE Rice: Asian Farmers 
have everything to Lose').

*Genetically engineered perennial rice is designed to reproduce more than 
once in its lifecycle and last more than two years (Source: Mga Magsasaka 
at Siyentipiko Para sa Ikauunlad ng Agham Pang-Agrikultura (MASIPAG). 
MASIPAG News & Views. 2000. 'GE Rice: Asian Farmers have everything to 

For more information contact:

PAN AP (Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific)
Jennifer Mourin, Campaigns and Media Coordinator OR Sarah Hindmarsh,
Programme Assistant Genetic Engineering Campaign. Tel: (60-4) 657-0271/
656-038. Fax: (604) 657-7445
E-mail: or visit the People's Caravan
Web site:

sent by:

People's Caravan 2000
P.O. Box 1170, 10850, Penang, Malaysia.
Tel: (604) 657 0271/656 0381 Fax: (604) 657 7445
E-mail: /


B) Dark clouds with silver linings?

GMO FOOD: Cultivation and consumption of genetically modified organisms are 
already widespread in the US. Now the question is what's to stop Thailand 
going with the flow? 'There's a lot of ignorance out there. Frankly, we 
have been eating this stuff for about 10 years without a problem," blusters 
Carl Feldbaum, president of Bio, a national biotech trade group in 
Washington, DC, speaking on the topic of genetically modified (GM) food 

But Thai farmer Khemporn Songma does not share the American's confidence. 
"I am afraid," he states simply on his way to join a rally to protest the 
effects of imported GM organisms on biodiversity in Thailand. Khemporn has 
heard that scientists have tampered with what he calls the "intestines" of 
some rice varieties and that as a result only 15 varieties remain in 
Thailand today compared to thousands in his grandfather's day.

Indeed, the economics of GMO crop cultivation can be hard to resist. 
According to Gayl Hopkins, a corn grower from Iowa, planting genetically 
modified corn cost him about $10 more per acre in 1999 because the seeds 
were expensive. But he gained 40 percent more profit because he spent less 
on chemicals. He found this fact particularly amazing - and alluring - 
given the low market prices for corn. "Bt cotton ( genetically modified 
cotton) does not require the use of chemicals, so it's better for our 
health," says Somboon Charoenchai, a Thai farmer in Yang Chak village in 
Phetchabun. Despite having friends who fear the new crop, he insists he 
will buy Bt cotton seeds if and when they become available. In the 
meantime, he has stopped planting cotton altogether since pests drove up 
pesticide costs to prohibitive levels.

Amid widespread suspicion about the effects of GM crops, biosafety 
experiments continue in Thailand as farmers wait impatiently for the 
authorities to make a decision one way or the other. Since January last 
year, Thailand has held some 90 meetings in various institutions 
nationwide, as well as with counterparts in the Philippines, Malaysia and 
Saudi Arabia, covering all aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMO) 

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