The Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 brings together farmers, rural communities, and other sectors of society to celebrate and protect rice culture.  To be officially launched on March 13 in Bangladesh, the main WORA events will take place in 13 countries across Asia from March 29 to April 4.  Culminating in India and the Philippines, WORA will be an unprecedented mobilization of Asians " Celebrating and Protecting Rice Culture" ! A key feature of WORA will be its one-million signature campaign calling on policy-makers to take immediate steps to save the rice of Asia. 

  WORA is organised by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) and its partner organisations in thirteen countries in the region.  Anyone interested in being a part of WORA 2007 can log on to the WORA page at

Celebration of Rice in Malaysia

Farmers told of the Benefits of Organic Rice Farming to Health and the Environment

24th March - Taiping, Perak - In conjunction with the Week of Rice Action (WORA) currently taking place in 13 countries in Asia, a talk on organic rice farming was organised by ERA Consumer at the local community hall, Kampung Parit Lapan, Gunung Semanggol.

A total of 25 conventional rice farmers from the Gunung Semanggol area, three representatives from Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm, and three ERA Consumer staff attended the talk given by Tam Pak Suew, founder and managing director of Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm.

The event was facilitated by Mr. P. Kesavan from ERA Consumer who introduced WORA to the participants and explained about the 1-million Signature Campaign .

Tam shared his experience on organic rice farming stating that it was not just about using organic fertilisers to grow rice but an integrated system where the rice fields had ducks and fish to control weeds and pests. He said he also grew dragon fruit, coconut, banana, herbal and spice plants on his farm. Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm was certified as fully organic by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) in 2005 – the first farm of its kind in Malaysia.

Tam who has been working on his organic farm for the past six years through trial and error said it was a big financial investment initially but he was convinced now that organic farming would be viable and sustainable in the long term. Although he has yet to make a profit from his farm, he was confident that he would succeed in the near future.

“More people are becoming aware of the benefits of eating healthy food. Organic farming also contributes to a cleaner environment and farmers are healthier because of the absence of chemicals in the environment.”

Tam stated the current yield was about three to four tons per hectare at that the cost was high because organic rice farming was labour intensive. The retail price of organic rice is RM7.50 a kilogram, which was much more expensive than inorganic rice.

However, Tam felt the price would eventually come down in the future as his farm was still experimenting with new techniques. He said he was going to try rotational farming to reduce the weeds and the rate menace.

Explaining this he said ducks and fish were used to control pests, but weeds and field rats were the main factors that reduced yield. He said one year he would only rear fish and ducks – this would kill off most of the weeds - while the next year he would plant padi before the weeds had a chance to grow. He would also install rat proof fencing around his 270 acre farm.

To ensure success in his venture, Tam has produced value added products from organic rice, such as organic brown rice, vermicelli and an instant brown rice drink. The fruits, ducks and fish would also generate some cash in the meantime to keep the farm going before he makes a profit. The farm also produced its own organic fertiliser from oil palm waste, a special enzyme and other waste materials from the farm. The organic fertiliser was sold under the brand name ‘Zenxin’.

At the end of the session Tam said that high costs and small land area may deter conventional farmers , but if the farmers farmed as a community , then costs could be lowered. He acknowledged the role of Non-Governmental Organisations in assisting the farmers.

ERA Consumer observed that farmers were aware of organic rice farming. One of the farmers said he had attended a course held by the Department Of Agriculture, where they learnt to grow rice with catfish or ‘ikan keli’ without the use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. The farmers were very keen to know about the yield per hectare and the price of seed. This could be because of the compulsory use of certified seeds required by the Government in 2009. Organic rice farms requires less seeds compared to conventional farms. Farmers were also interested to know how to make their own organic fertiliser.

Apart from the high start-up cost, the retail price of organic
rice was another hurdle to organic rice farming. At RM7.50 per kilo they felt it would be
difficult to sell. Without a positive market outlook, conversion to organic farming would be difficult.

In brief, farmers needed not only knowledge and skills in organic farming, but financial support during the first few years of conversion. A good marketing and distribution channel were also equally important to foster the change.

Week of Rice Action in Japan

Conference on " Who Owns Life"

 A conference on Life Patenting entitled " Who Owns Life" was held in Tokyo on 21 March 2007. More than 230 people attended it. At the conference, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho made a presentation about the hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)  and practices of " Dream Farms" (sustainable agriculture). Workshops were also held during the one-day conference. The topics of the workshops included WORA, saving seeds, intellectual property rights, and World Trade Organisation and Free Trade Agreements. Similar conferences were also held in Osaka and Fukuoka on March 24 and 26.

Save Our Rice Message Goes Out by Bullock Cart Power in Tamil Nadu! 

 The Week of Rice Action took off in Tamil Nadu with campaigners travelling on bullock carts decorated with rice stalks, green leaves, posters and banners, shouting slogans related to rice.

 The Cultural Action Week campaign with the theme " Save Our Rice" began on 23rd March, with the distribution of handbills and talks to farmers on rice issues.  On 24th March the campaigners took to the road in caravan style, on foot and on bullock carts, making house visits to the villagers to spread the message of the importance of rice.

 The campaign was organised by the Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED), Alliance of People' s Movement (APM), and the Tamil Nadu Women' s Forum (TNWF) which also helped to mobilize the farmers for the events.  

 The bullock cart caravan started off in Thakkolam which is the rice bowl of Vellore district, and moved through the villages with the campaigners distributing hand bills, carrying banners and shouting slogans: " Rice Our Life, Rice Our Food!"   Posters were placed on the bull' s horns bearing the words:  " Save our Rice" , " Week of Rice Action."

 Several issues were raised and tackled during the two-day campaign and speakers and campaign leaders from the different organisations spoke on a variety of subjects including pesticide poisoning, violations to farmers, rice lands being taken away for other purposes, WTO and the impact of Globalisation, creation of Special Economic Zones  (SEZs)and other issues affecting rice growing countries in Asia.

 The farmers responded by stating: " Use of pesticide leads to damage and loss, whereas in traditional farming the profit is double."   They added that they also led healthier lives without the use of pesticides.
  The farmers had traveled from Kancheepuram, Tiruttani and other neighbouring areas to meet at the Pallur Bus stand.  They asked questions and wanted to know more about organic farming.  They also enquired about alternatives to chemical pesticides.
  They were also shocked to hear about the Seed Bill and blamed the Government for promoting seeds from multi-national corporations and said the Government was anti-farmers.  Modules on Food Sovereignty were also distributed to the farmers and explained to them.

 Mr. Govindaiah leader of the Landless Labourers Movement said, " We should keep our lands and our seeds and not give it to the companies.  We have to preserve the traditional seeds which have been taken away from our hands" .
In his speech he opposed the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the research undertaken on rice seeds which resulted in land being taken away from the people. He criticized the way companies were taking away lands through the implementation of Special Economic Zones.

" Rice is an important food for us and we have to preserve Rice," he said.

 Ms. Arputhammal, president of the Rural Women' s Liberation movement spoke out against food poisoning saying: " Agriculture is Poisoned," " The Food is Poisoned," and that natural farming should be encouraged.  She added that there were many complaints of villagers suffering from diabetes, cancer and diseases related to the uterus and kidney due to the use of chemical pesticides and agro-chemicals.  She said: " Rice is Food, and Right to Food is our fundamental right."

 Agnes Vimala from TNWF explained that rice was the main food for Asians and particularly in India where 70 percent of the people were farmers.  She said there was now control over rice and that in the Kancheepuram district of Sriperambathur, agriculture lands were given to car companies, glass, and cell phone manufacturers among some.
 " Small rice farmers are being evicted from their lands by the Government who is giving the land away to the companies.  Instead of growing rice, floriculture, cash crops, and aqua farms are being developed.  Farmers are not able to produce their own food but are made dependent on corporations.  It is not our Government alone but the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which is also responsible for the situation of farmers today," she added.

 Venkat from the Alliance of People' s Movement attacked the mechanisation in agriculture and said that fast food was poisonous food and that people should go back to eating local healthy food.  He attacked WTO and Globalisation stating that their calculations showed a reduction in yield per acre from 45 bags to 20 bags of rice.  He made a call to oppose rice dumping as no political parties had taken up these issues.

 The campaigners had a demonstration in front of the Pesticide Agro Chemical Shop with the protest message:


 The campaigners who included women from the movement, Davits, Rules, and members of the Workers Movement carried a big banner and rice stalks and walked through the villages.  They handed over the People' s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia, which was translated in Tamil and explained to the people.  The petition was also delivered via bullock cart to the people.

 The villagers and farmers then signed on the One Million Signature petition and they also signed on the WORA banners during the two days of campaigning.

 A film on " Rice in Our Life" was shown following which there were discussions.  A group of children also did a role play on the pesticide use and its impact on children and others.


 The farmers, women and villagers from the different communities said they understood the importance of Rice and explained that they were forced to sell their lands.

 The farmers gathered said that:  " It would have been good to have had such campaigns 10 years ago.  We have lost our land, our seed, and our water.  This campaign will motivate us to keep the land," said another farmer.  Many farmers were also keen to become members of the movement.

 The Bullock Carts Caravan continues.

Week of Rice Action 2007 Kicks off in Karnataka, India

Programme launched at Belthangady Taluk in Karnataka: 

Mithabagilu Village declared GM Free; Seed Savers honoured

By Usha and Sridhar


27th March 2007 - Belthangady, Karnataka -  The Week of Rice Action (WORA) 2007 was launched amidst much excitement and joy, with traditional songs and dance in the Mithabagilu Village of Belthangady Taluk, at the foot of the Western Ghats in Karnataka yesterday.

 Farmers from two districts came together in this village to celebrate rice culture and share their experiences in conserving rice seeds.  The programme was jointly organised by Nagarika Seva Trust-Karnataka, Thanal-Kerala and Mithabagilu Grama Panchayath, to raise awareness about the importance of rice and rice culture among the people and decision makers.

 Usha S. from Thanal introduced the celebrations and said: " This programme is being organized in 13 countries all over Asia to highlight the importance of rice culture to Asia and to take action to protect this culture from threats especially from genetically engineered rice varieties and hybrid rice."

 The celebrations were then inaugurated with the traditional rice ritual accompanied with the call of " Poli Poliyo" (prayer for prosperity) by Sri K Sundar Salian, President of the Agriculture and Industries Standing Committee of the Dakshina Kannada Zilla (District) Panchayath.  Also present were Sri Nammalvar, a farmer-scientist and leader of the Tamil Nadu Organic Agriculturist Movement, Prof B M Kumaraswamy an economist, Sri Somanath Nayak (NST), Sri Krishna Prasad (Sahaja Samrudha-Karnataka), Smt Kusumavathi (President, Mithabagilu Grama Panchayath), Sri Lakshmeesha Tholpady(Barathiya Kissan Sangh) and other dignitaries from the Panchayaths, Krishikare Vedike, Mahila Jagruthi Vedike, Parisara Okkoota and Agriculture Department officials.

 Sri Nammalvar spoke about the spread of the organic farming movement in Tamil Nadu and how this change in agricultural practice was helping the farmers there.

 Sri B K Deva Rao a seed saver from the Mithabagilu Village and his family were awarded The Week of Rice Action 2007 Citation for their efforts in conserving 52 varieties of traditional paddy seed varieties for the last 10 years.  Another 15 organic farmers, seed savers and Seed Bank heads from several other villages in the two districts were also honoured for their selfless work in protecting and conserving the traditional varieties of seeds and the local knowledge.

 A booklet on " Biotechnology " Engineered Hunger" by Prof B M Kumaraswamy, translated to the local language was also released at the function by Sri Sundara Salian.

 Three sessions followed the inaugural function. Prof Kumaraswamy spoke about the unethical science behind biotechnology and GM seeds.  Sri Nammalvar spoke about rice culture in India and how it was threatened by the green revolution and introduction of high input varieties.  Sri Krishna Prasad shared the experience of seed conservation in Karnataka and the importance of it in conserving traditional varieties and knowledge.

 After the sessions, the village of Mithabagilu was declared GM Free by Sri K Sundara Salian and Prof Kumaraswamy read out the oath to the villagers.

 The participants signed the " People' s Statement on protecting Rice in Asia " . An exhibition of traditional paddy seeds was organized at the same time.  Women from the village prepared a variety of traditional and highly nutritious dishes for the participants.

 The programme ended with songs and traditional dance, showcasing the culture and history of the people in the region. 


27 March 2007 " Seoul - Over 150 Sociology students at the Seoul Women' s University learnt today that sociology had a big part to play in saving the rice of Asia .

 Addressing them on the Week of Rice Action 2007 were Clare Westwood, Campaign Coordinator of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific for the first part and PAN AP' s consultant genetic scientist, Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher from the United Kingdom who spoke on the issue of genetically engineered rice.

 The talks were part of the WORA Korea campaign.

 The students resonated well with Westwood' s introduction on how rice was life to Korea and to Asia as a whole. They grew concerned at the threats to rice, namely GE Rice. " The Week of Rice Action is all about Asians uniting to save our rice!" explained Westwood. " Besides being concerned about the safety of the rice, consumers need to think about the social implications of their decisions like the impact on millions of small farmers around the world and the effect on the environment."

 Dr Steinbrecher stressed that the science was only one aspect of the whole issue of genetic engineering, but it was often wrongfully perceived as the only deciding factor. " Other factors such as ecological impacts, ethics, socio-economics, democracy and food security are equally if not more important," said Dr Steinbrecher. On the issue of the safety of genetically-engineered food, she explained that science meant " seeking the truth" and that (scientific) truth was not something one can hold in one' s hand for long. " Genetic engineering (GE) is still very unstable and nobody can say with certainty that GE food is safe."

 Professor Song, Head of the Sociology Department of the university said, " Generally students' level of social consciousness is low nowadays. I want my students to understand not just local issues, but also global issues. GMOs represent a global issue which has impacts even at the individual level for example, health impacts."

 The students became part of the thousands gathering around different parts of Asia for the Week of Rice Action 2007 which culminates on April 3 and 4 in Manila and in Orissa , India .


28 March 2007- Seoul - Korea' s leading civil and farmer organizations voiced an unequivocal NO! to the import of genetically engineered (GE) rice into the country at the WORA Seminar entitled " How to Secure the Safety of Rice" held in the heart of Seoul city today.

 This stand is supported by the Korean Ministry of Agriculture. In a message from the Vice-Minister of Agriculture, Park Hae Sang, which was read out on his behalf by the Deputy Director of the Foodgrain Policy Division, Park Hee-Su, the VM said that the Ministry was working to keep GE rice out of the country: " Rice is the principal food for Koreans and is the most important product of Korean agriculture. Korea is the only one out of 140 rice-importing countries to have a policy requiring GMO-certification from the exporting country " in this way, we try to prevent importing GMO rice."

 This pleased the crowd of about 80 present comprising government officials, journalists and members from local leading NGOs and farmer organizations.

 The seminar was the major event of WORA Korea, organized by Consumers Korea (CK) in collaboration with The Korean Farmers and Fishermen' s Weekly News (KFFWN) and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP).

 Presidents of CK and KFFWN, Kim Jai Ok, and Suh Kyu Yong respectively, opened the event by talking about the importance of ensuring the safety of rice in Korea . " Rice is our life and the risks of GM rice are very real," they said and both called upon the groups present to act collectively to secure a GM rice-free Korea .

 Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, director of Econexus (UK) and a consultant genetic scientist for PAN AP who had been invited to address the event, spoke on " Genetically Engineered Food and Crops: Issues and Concerns from a Scientific Perspective" . Stressing that genetic engineering was far from being a precise technology, she cited example after example of negative, unexpected and unexplainable side effects of the genetic engineering of various crops. " Since rice is eaten everyday, even low level toxicity, which can be a side effect of GE rice, will be very damaging over the long term. It is best to exercise the precautionary principle with regard to GE rice and GE food."

 Clare Westwood, Campaign Coordinator of PAN AP, based in Penang , Malaysia , explained why there was an urgent need to organize an Asia-wide campaign to save the rice of Asia with the onset of the threat of GE Rice. " Lee Kyung Hae, the Korean farmer-hero who took his life in 2003 in protest of rice trade liberalizaton, is a symbol of what is happening to rice farmers everywhere. Do we want seeds that mean the extinction of millions of small rice farmers all over the world?"

 She called upon Korea as a developed Asian nation to ban GE rice and deny GE seed companies an important market. " Korea , Asia needs you! Join hands with the rest of Asia to save Asia ' s rice heritage."

 The eleven leaders from the various local NGOs and farmer organizations present each responded affirmatively and added calls of their own. All agreed to fight to keep Korea GE rice-free, set up more GE-free zones, and insist on strict labeling regulations for GE food/products. Consumers Korea reported that it had found GE content in 27 out of 260 food product samples " none of the samples had GE content included in the label.

 Furthermore, the farmer organizations expressed interest in forming a network with the consumer organizations to fight against GE. " This is a wonderful development," said Kim. " This WORA seminar has been very successful for many reasons, mainly in bringing together leading opinion leaders in Korea " this is very important as collectively, they are a powerful force; in getting everyone to realize that an Asian-wide campaign is needed to tackle the GE threat and having them commit to this campaign; in the strengthening and formation of alliances between the various groups to fight GE; and last but not least, in having the Ministry' s assurance that it is against the import GE Rice."

 As proof of their commitment, all those present at the seminar put pen to paper by signing giant posters of the 1-million People' s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia.


28 March 2007 - Seoul " " Genetic engineering is far from precise' , warns Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher, consultant genetic scientist of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific and also director of EcoNexus, a public-interest research organization based in the UK. " There are a number of steps in the genetic engineering process and most of them are subject to various uncertainties. A single gene mutation can have serious effects .…yet genetic engineering is all about creating mutations… the outcome can be tremendous, and totally unpredictable and unexpected."

 Speaking on " Genetically Engineered Food and Crops: Issues and Concerns from a Scientific Perspective" . at the WORA Seminar entitled " How to Secure the Safety of Rice" in Seoul today, Dr Steinbrecher expressed her disbelief that agri-business corporations could guarantee that genetically engineered (GE) food or crops are stable and safe when there are so many indications to show they are not.
 " Besides negative ecological, social and economic effects of the genetic engineering of crops, from a scientific perspective, there are health impacts, contamination effects and many scientific uncertainties associated with genetic engineering," continued Dr Steinbrecher.

 She cited a disturbing development about honey bees in the US . " Millions of these insects have disappeared over the last half year, their hives are empty. Bees are used as pollinators for various crops and the value that they generate in the US is estimated at over USD14 billion per year" . The problem is so severe that it has been called the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). " Nobody knows why the bees are dying. There is evidence though that GE crops contribute to this, in particular insect resistant crops producing the Bt-toxin. Though healthy bees do not seem to be affected by Bt pollen, a scientist called Hans-Hinrich Kaatz in Germany has found that bees infested with parasites and fed with Bt pollen were affected and died at a high rate. Beekeepers have for years reported that honeybees suffer from high rates of parasites and diseases. As reported last week in a German journal [Der Spiegel], this resembles new evidence that Bt pollen is a contributing factor in the death of the bees. The areas where the bees have disappeared have a lot of Bt crops being grown there. We don' t think this is a coincidence. No one would ever have thought that this could have been an outcome of Bt and yet here we are. Not only do we not know exactly how this interaction happened, we don' t know how to deal with it or stop it or even if we can."

 Dr Steinbrecher also cited experiments with rats and mice fed with a particular GE tomato and GE potato. Results showed damage to the musocal cell lining of the gut in both cases and abnormal development of body organs in the latter case. Other experiments on rats fed with GE peas that contained a gene from beans showed heightened allergenicity and immunogenicity.
 " Allergic reactions can be anything from rashes, sneezing and asthma to fatal shocks in some cases," warns Dr Steinbrecher.

 Other possible impacts are gene silencing ie the plant that is being genetically engineered may ‘silence' (turn off) that particular gene permanently. Dr Steinbrecher explains, " In 1992, a study was published about GE petunias in Germany . One summer, these GE petunias started to produce white and pink flowers instead of the characteristic red ones. Investigations revealed that the plant had somehow shut off the gene producing red flowers. Again, this was a totally unexpected effect. Gene silencing in GE plants has been repeatedly observed. We now know that environmental factors as well as homologies of the GE gene and the plant' s own genes can trigger gene silencing."
 She goes on to cite another disturbing case in the US . " In the US , a case reported in 1999, GE soya (resistant to the Roundup Ready herbicide) was found to have inexplicably produced 20% more lignin. This caused the stems to become harder than normal. During one exceptionally hot summer, the stems cracked because they were too brittle and tough to expand in the heat. Fungus penetrated the cracks and this greatly affected the yield that summer."
 The final word from  Dr Steinbrecher is one of extreme caution: " The moral of all these cases is that from the scientific angle, genetic engineering of crops is still a technology full of risks. Any number of totally unexpected things can happen. Worse, once grown, GE crops can contaminate the food supplies as just seen for two varieties of herbicide resistant rice (LL601 & LL). Worse still, GE
plants can and will contaminate natural varieties and this contamination is irrevocable. The only fact we can be sure of is that we simply don' t know enough to risk the consequences."

 The delegates at the seminar were relieved to finally get such evidence of the risks of GE food. Their feelings were well articulated by Jung Woo Sick from the Buddhist Environment Association,  " Before this, we were aware of a debate over the safety and stability of GE but we were never really sure. Now that we know the facts, we can have one clear message for our consumers here: that GE rice and GE food is a real risk, one that we should not take."


“In the lake there was water, We had paddy grown,
We were very happy, Those were the days.
But now, where had that kind of life gone?
And what happened to these varieties?”

 Chennai, India – The words of the song expressed the sadness of the farmers who have lost their rice varieties, their rice lands and were faced with the hazards of pesticide poisoning.

 Songs like the one above were heard at the start of a symposium held during The Week of Rice Action (WORA) in which the issues facing farmers were addressed. Some 100 farmers and farmer leaders, half of them women attended the symposium.
The symposium started with the song above by Dhanamma, a women farmer from Vellore.
The song continued with 13 varieties of paddy and 8 varieties of grain that has disappeared from the community in Vellore.

“Land is now used for cash crops, There is no more rain,
The drought has come,The green revolution,
Brought us pesticides and food poisoning.”

 The first speaker for the day was Sultan Ismail, the Head of the Department of Biotechnology, The New College Chennai and Managing Director of Ecoscience Research Foundation. He affirmed the demand of the farmers to take charge of their life and not allow the companies to introduce High Input Varieties (HIVs) nor genetic engineered seeds.  He reminded the farmers that the country had a wide variety of rice and this was a natural resource that had to be preserved. He then explained the basic genetics to farmers and assured them that they had nothing to fear.

 Fatima Burnad of the Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (TNWF) highlighted the rising cases of reproductive health problems from the use of pesticides. She also stressed that women farmers needed to join in the struggle for rights to livelihood and resources, and the struggle against corporate agriculture and the seed bill which threatened the farmers.
 “The young need to be mobilised to take up issues and join in the struggle in agriculture,” said Fatima. “Our government must work on the Food Sovereignty Framework to ensure that the rights of farmers are protected.

 WORA is not a campaign, but a political issue of the farmers, women, Dalits, tribals, and other minorities against the special economic zones, unemployment, dumping of cheap imported food products and the imperialist corporate globalization. It is a political issue because land is taken away, which leads to loss of livelihood, and violation of rights. We need to reclaim our food, land, water and other resources. Therefore, Food Sovereignty is a political issue.”

 Selvam from the Forum of Organic Farmers, from Erode, shared his experience on the struggle against the Green Revolution. He also voiced the growing concern on limiting resources for farmers and the increasing health problems arising from pesticides use.

 A lawyer, Sundaram, from a laywers collective, concerned for the environment, spoke on the issues of patents, seed bill, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act. He said that farmers must be aware of the constitution that is being tabled by advocates on farming issues. He said farmer groups were not giving them feedback in the discussions.

 Another song was sung by Santhana Mary from Ramnad district, a women farmer citing the struggle of grassroots in the society - the existence of caste and religious fundamentalism, the state not providing help and that there was no unity among the people. “The people will change the inequality of land in a few hands, as this is not their fate. We are going to change the system, land for everyone and we will progress together. Whatever we dream will come true, for we have to come together for our society.”

 Another farmer leader, Nalla Gounder, from the National Farmers Movement, shared his 30 years experience of stuggle for the farmers, fighting the Green Revolution and now the invasion of GM crops. He stressed that women farmers needed to join in the fight and noted that the attendance of women farmers at this forum had created a new revolution.

 A short video entitled “Spray of Misery” preluded the presentation by Madhumita Dutta, representing Community Action for Pesticides Elimination (CAPE) and the Collective for Economic, Social and Environmental Justice, on the pesticides problems in India.
 From the video, it was evident that pesticides were a major health concern for the society. She pleaded for the people to come together to fight this menace that was risking 300 million lives around the world. “The problems of pesticides are widespread in India and there are many studies to prove this.” She also cited corrupt practices of agrochemical TNCs that bribed the government and took public interest groups to court for speaking against them.

 Yeoh Jit Kooi, GE Campaign Research Officer from PAN AP wrapped up the symposium and mentioned the issues spoken about during the Week of Rice Action. He shared in detail the purpose of having the Week of Rice Action and its demands. The participants of the symposium unanimously supported the 1-million Signature Campaign of the People’s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia.

Week of Rice Action 2007 Launched in Sri Lanka

29 March, 2007 – Sri Lanka - About 750 people witnessed the launch of WORA, Week of Rice Action in Sri Lanka today. It was held at a Community Hall in Monoragala. Monoragala is situated 248 Kilometers from Colombo.

 The event began with the welcome speech by Miss K.P Somalatha, Chairperson of Vikalpani. It was followed by a brief discussion on the objectives of the programme by Miss Chandrawathie , National coordinator of Vikalpani.

 Various speakers were invited to give their presentations. The first presenter was Dr. Ruwan Manjula Ranasinghe, a medical doctor from Divlapitya District Hospital. He talked about how Biotechnology Food affects the human health and environment. The second presenter was Dr Jayantha Adapattu, Director of Agriculture of Monoragala. He touched on the Agricultural GE crops and its effect on human health.

 PAN AP staff, Chandrika Devi spoke on WORA and its objectives. Mr Thillak who is a lecturer and the President of the Farmers Association, spoke on Rice Culture and Ecological Agriculture. Apart from this, there were also presentations from the community and cultural shows.

 An Exhibition on rice related items was held outside the hall.

 The next day (30 March 2007), Wora continued its journey to Dambulla, which is about 120 kilometers to the north of Monoragala. About 200 people joined the celebration there. There were awareness programmes, cultural shows and also presentations from several speakers.

Seminar on Future of Local Rice Varieties in Pakistan

Director of the Department of Adaptive Research in Pakistan responds to farmers requests to look after their interests and says it is ready to initiate research on ecological farming systems and local varieties.

A seminar on the future of Local Rice Varieties was held at the Adaptive Research Farm, Sheikhupura, with the collaboration of the Directorate of Adaptive Research.

The event held in conjunction with the Week of Rice Action (WORA) from 29th March to 4th April 2007 drew farmers from many areas who participated in the 1-day seminar. The main idea was to involve this Governmental institution in research on ecological farming systems and local Rice varieties. The Directorate is mainly responsible to transfer the technologies to the farmers.

Dr. Shahid Zia while explaining the objectives of the seminar said that introduction of the Green Revolution and High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) brought serious changes in the cropping patterns and agriculture in general. Special campaigns were launched by Government Departments for the diffusion of HYVs. Farmers adopted those varieties and gained bumper crops for a few years but after that the yields fell down even lower than the local varieties because of many problems with the HYVs. These varieties were actually not suited to the prevailing environment and they had very minimum level of immunity against the severe circumstances like drought and pest and disease attack.

To overcome this situation, farmers were taught to use fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, cost of production rose from 1345 Rs./acre in 1985 to 13000 Rs./acre in 2005 with almost the same yield.

“During this period we suffered a loss in the diversity of crop and the varieties as the system encouraged mono-cropping patterns. The farmers of Sheikhupura had more than 4000 rice varieties in their hands and now they are have only five varieties to cultivate” he said.

He added that the modern agriculture did not only tend to increase the cost of production but also limited the choices for the farmers. He said that the International Rice Research Institute had played a negative role in this process together with some Rice Research Institutes in Pakistan and other countries of Asia.
“Now they are talking about GE Rice which is a real threat to Pakistan and other Rice cultivating countries. But the farmers of Asia has recognized these things and are celebrating the Week of Rice Action to save the Rice of Asia, which is the main staple food of more than three billion people of Asia.

We strongly demand that our Governmental institutions should work in the interests of the farmers and research on our local varieties should be started to make them better for the future.”

Dr. Anjum Ali, Director of Adaptive Research said that the Directorate had nine Research farms in the different climatic zones of Punjab province, researching on different farming systems and technologies to be transferred to the farmers.
He said the Directorate was concerned about the increasing cost of production and was working on the low cost sustainable technologies so that the farmers may get more income. Currently, some Adaptive Research Farms are working on Integrated Pest Management to cut down the use of pesticides and “we are ready to initiate research on ecological farming systems and local varieties with the collaboration of Lok Sanjh, the local organization, and the farmers. The Director has allocated three acres of land at the Sheikhupura Adaptive Research Farm for this initiative.”

Farmers attending the seminar raised some questions on the impacts of the Green Revolution and supported the idea of research on ecological farming systems and local Rice Varieties with the involvement of the farmers. Some farmers also offered their lands for research purposes. It was decided that five farmer’s plots would be selected from different areas to initiate research and a main plot sited at the Adaptive Research Farm.

Indigenous Communities Pledge to Protect Rice in Sabah !  

They are the four last known remaining " Bobohizan" or Rice Priestesses actually practicing rice rituals and rice related spiritual activities in the Penampang District in Sabah .  Dressed in the traditional black of the Kadazan Dusun people, the Priestesses perform the sacred " Monogit" ceremony of thanksgiving for the previous rice harvest and put forward prayers for good harvest for the coming year.  Besides being the last guardians of the rice rituals, these women—Inai Livani, Inai Gusiti, Inai Luvining and Inai Silip—are truly precious treasures because they also have the distinction of being the only people left in the community with the ability to speak the special and distinct language related to the Rice Rituals.  Once they are gone, it is not only the rituals that will die with them, the language of the " Bobohizan" rice rituals and traditions will be gone forever.  Participants and curious visitors to the WORA event in Penampang State Library, last 31st March, got a rare glimpse at the Bobohizans performing the Monogit in the " Celebrating and Protecting Rice Culture" photo exhibition that greeted one and all as they made their way into the WORA Meeting Hall.    

 The threats facing the " Bobohizan" epitomize the threats facing rice farming in the Penampang district, and Sabah as a whole, as massive land development projects for housing, industrial sites, tourism and plantations (namely palm oil) have literally eaten up acres and acres of rice lands. 

 " To us, Indigenous Peoples, rice is very important.  A lot of our culture and beliefs are centred around rice tradition”, states Anne Lasimbang, Executive Director of PACOS (Partners of Community Organisations), host for the WORA event in East Malaysia .  " Issues on land are also related to rice, because land is needed to plant rice for survival and if land is taken away the question of survival is at stake.  So at many times when communities fight for their land, it is because they need it for their survival, for planting rice and other food crops”. 

 The impacts of urbanization and influences of globalisation which have drastically affected the social and cultural lives of indigenous peoples has meant that many young people are no longer interested in the adat (traditions) and culture of their communities, least of all in rice culture and cultivation.

 " Our mother tongue is also very much tied up with rice cultivation and rice culture, therefore if we give up the rice culture many of our words in our language will be lost with it.  One of PACOS main work is environment and biodiversity, this is one reason why we wanted to take part in WORA.  These issues need to be highlighted and addressed!” asserts Anne. 

 Participants to the " One Day Farmers" Seminar in conjunction with WORA" , in Penampang,  consisted of over 100 local farmers, representatives from the Agriculture Department, the Fisheries Department, Consumers and Environmental NGOs, and the general public.   The event was organised to promote biodiversity-based ecological agriculture, as a basis for people centred economic development and independence of farming communities; and to educate the public and create a broad awareness of pesticides problems; as well as GE crops in general and GE Rice in particular—targeting farmers, women, consumers and other relevant sectors.

 While presenting an overview on the regional WORA events, Jennifer Mourin of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific, highlighted concerns of how the Malaysian government aimed to remedy its 13 billion Ringgit Malaysia food import expenditure by re-focusing attention on agriculture and food production, and aimed to overturn the food deficit by 2010 to make Malaysia a net exporter of food.  She also noted how, fuelled with this new focus, the government" s 9th Malaysian Plan aimed to develop " New Agriculture" programmes by " giving focus on enhancing the value chain, cultivating high value added agricultural activities and large-scale commercial farming, utilising ICT as well as exploiting the full potential of biotechnology”. 

 She questioned such a development that prioritised so-called " high-value” cash crops, such as palm oil, for export markets instead of prioritising local food self sufficiency.  She also pointed out that promotion of large scale commercial agriculture would mean taking over large areas of land for the intensive cultivation of such commercial and export crops.  Finally she asserted that such commercial oriented agriculture would require large amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers; mechanization, and valuable resources such as water—the kind of agriculture known to badly affect human health, pollute the environment, and deplete valuable natural resources.  Following this session, Jennifer was invited to provide an orientation on pesticides and their hazards.  During the question and answer session she strongly challenged the government officials present to promote organic agriculture and alternatives to chemical pesticides.      

 Providing the participants with an in dept orientation of Genetic Engineering (GE), Wilhemina " Didit" Peregrina the Executive Director of SEARICE (Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment) debunked the myths and propaganda of the so called benefits of GE being promoted, the GE industry and pro-GE scientists.  She pointed that they have claimed that GE will ensure food security and will save the world from hunger; and GE will improve the nutrient quality of crops.  " In reality GE crops have been in the market since 1996 but hunger and malnutrition persist” she noted.  About 35 per cent of GE crops in the market are soyabeans, 20 per cent corn), 10 per cent cotton and 5 per cent canola—all key export crops of industrialized countries, not food crops.  " Most of the soya and corn traded worldwide are not meant as food, but as animal feeds,” she pointed out ironically.  Furthermore, 50 per cent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) had been developed for herbicide tolerance.  Didit also ran through the gamut of known evidence of health and environmental hazards of GE, as well as the consumer and ethical concerns over GE food products.    

 She really shocked participants with the section on GE rice development, in which she shared on " Biopharmaceutical Rice" , where she noted that " rice is being developed as a drug factory, to produce human lactoferin and lysozyme (bacteria fighting compounds in breastmilk and saliva) for commercialisation in the U.S. ”  She explained how this, " GE rice or " mothers" milk rice is being developed for children with diarhhoea (extracted for oral rehydration and other uses), and Ventria Bioscience application to USDA has gotten the preliminary green light for commercial release in Kansas, even though USFDA refused approval of recombinant pharmaceutical!” 

 Other disturbing GE rice development noted by Didit included:  transgenic hay fever rice due to be commercialised by 2007 in Japan; and rice with human insulin like growth factor (hIGF) which researchers claim will be useful to treat growth deficiencies for children, osteoporosis and even AIDS, while significantly not discussing the cancer promoting qualities of hIGF.  She also noted the controversial Liberty Link Rice which faced huge resistance in the European Union but was only, " one signature away for approved importation in the Philippines ”.  Produced by Bayer Cropsience, LL62 is genetically-modified to resist the herbicide glufosinate, which is meant to be used in conjunction with the genetically modified crop.  " There are fears that with LL62, glufosinate use by farmers will increase”, she noted.  Glufosinate has been observed to cause adverse health effects in animals, causing nervous system and numerous birth defects. 

 She concluded by citing yet more worrying GE developments, including GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) namely the now infamous " terminator seeds" (sterile) and trait restriction; and the spectre of " Nano rice" using nanotechnology in rice breeding being developed at Chiang Mai University ); and a slew of other examples that included tungro resistant transgenic rice, Bt rice (for yellow stem borer, striped stem borer, and rice leafhoppers), rice with E. coli for starch biosynthesis; nitrogen fixing rice, Beta carotene rice (for indica) or " Golden Rice" and saline tolerant rice.

 The WORA event ended with a workshop session to discuss follow up activities.  Participants came up with a range of activities to protect rice, including requests for more information and workshops to share on the issues highlighted at the WORA event and to take these to a wider audience in the villages; village level rice seed conservation projects; community campaigns to resist GE rice; promotion of alternatives to pesticides and ecological/organic agricultural practices.


Ready for Battle!

3 April 2007 - Yogyakarta, Indonesia " The farmers, women and children of Mandungan 1 village in Sleman in the Special Region of Yogyakarta are ready for battle " a battle against the corporatisation of agriculture and the struggle to uphold and protect their indigenous agricultural knowledge and rice culture. On 02 April 2007, more than 200 farmers, representatives of civil society organizations, as well as the academe, media and government institutions gathered together to celebrate the Pekan Budaya Padi Indonesia 2007 or the Week of Rice Action 2007 (WORA Indonesia).

 The week-long celebration which started on 02 April and will culminate on 05 April is being held at the community center of Mandungan 1. The activity is organised by Ikatan Petani PHT Indonesia (IPPHTI) in coordination with other groups such as KRKP, SBIB and PAN AP. WORA Indonesia 2007 features different activities such as seminars on rice culture, cultural presentations on rice, art competition for children, cooking contest, and a film show, andong march (march of the horse carriages).

 The culmination of WORA on 05 April will be the andong march going to the Kasultanan (Sultan" s Palace) to have a meeting with Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX, the reigning Sultan of the Special Province of Yogyakarta.

 As part of the celebration, a cultural war dance called Topeng Ireng or the Black Mask was presented. This dance depicts the Javanese army preparing for battle against the Dutch colonizers. The farmers and villagers used the Topeng Ireng dance to show their resistance to a new kind of colonization and repression " the colonization of agricultural TNCs and the repression of the farmer" s rights and rice culture. The opening ceremony was graced by Damarjati Supajor, a professor of Philosophy at the Gajahmada University in Yogyakarta, and an active supporter of organic farming. According to Prof. Supajor, " Farmers not only cultivate the soil, but also their souls”. He further said that the farmers have a spiritual relationship with the land and with rice, and that is why indigenous knowledge in agriculture should be protected and upheld.

 Mandungan is a farming community practicing organic farming and integrated pest management. According to Mr. TeO, the coordinator of the IPPHTI, the farmers in the village have been practicing organic farming since 1990, and have been pesticide free since 1995. He asserts that organic rice farming is not only beneficial for the health of the farmers and consumers, but it also protects the soil from mineral depletion. He also pointed out that since organic farming needs less production input, the farmers therefore get more income.

 WORA 2007 is being celebrated by different farming communities and peasant organisations in 13 countries all over Asia. WORA will feature the gathering of peasants and farmers, women, consumers and other sectors of society to highlight the value of rice culture, farmers" wisdom, and ecological agriculture, and the threat of landlessness and GE Rice. It likewise aims to highlight people" s food sovereignty and take critical actions to strengthen people" s opposition against corporate control of rice and rice lands in Asia.

Children’s Art Re-affirm Importance of Philippine Rice Culture

Manila, Philippines--- Young participants of the Asian-wide Week of Rice Action (WORA) expressed through art the importance of Philippine rice culture.

Twenty children of farmers, fisherfolk, and urban-based activists took part in an education session and art workshop on rice at the University of the Philippines Hotel last April 2.

Resist (Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochemical TNCs) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas organized the workshop to make the Filipino youth understand Philippine rice culture and their role in its preservation.

Three children, namely, Karl Vincent Cabaltera, 7, Maze San Juan, 11, and Nikko Marbella, 12, were awarded the workshop’s top prizes.

Karl’s artwork, which won first prize, depicted the chain of rice production, distribution, and consumption. “Rice means livelihood to our farmers and food on our table,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maze’s artwork showed the Filipino farmers’ practice of collective farming, otherwise known as bayanihan. “Because our farmers work very hard to plant rice, they must benefit from all their efforts to feed the people,” she said.

Nikko expressed gratitude to the millions of farmers who “give us something to eat everyday.” His artwork illustrated a rice farming family in the idyllic Philippine countryside setting.

Chris Sibugan, a member of the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates- Youth Sector, facilitated the education session and art workshop.

In the education session, she described to the children the various stages of rice production by using creative visual aids. The children brainstormed on their knowledge of the various Philippine rice products, such as rice cakes and other rice delicacies, rice wine, and rice soup. Then, they shared their own insights on why rice was important.

After establishing the importance of rice to Philippine culture, Sibugan shared with the children problems that threaten rice farmers, such as land-grabbing, chemical use, and the high cost of production. The need to save traditional rice farming was emphasized.

The children’s artworks were the final output of the day’s discussion. These were judged by Yi Kim Than and Nor Mora. Yi, an international WORA participant, is an ecological agriculture program officer of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC). Mora is a teacher of San Francisco High School in Quezon City. According to Yi, the Asian youth must be educated on the health, environmental, and social aspects of rice farming. “This is the first step so that they can stop chemical-input dependent agriculture and learn about ecological agriculture,” he said. He said that today’s children will be at tomorrow’s frontier in the fight against genetically-engineered (GE) rice. Yi fears that the younger generation will be able to eat only GE rice if corporate control over agriculture is not stopped.

ANDONG MARCH: In Defense of Indonesia’s Rice Culture

 5 April 2007, Yogyakarta, Indonesia – Today, more than 30 andongs, or horse-drawn carriages, marched from Mandungan I kampung (village) in Sleman in the Special Region of Yogyakarta, to Kapatihan (Governor’s Office) near the Sultan’s Palace in the city of Yogyakarta or Jogja. These horse-drawn carriages, or what people of Jogja call andong, is a popular means of transportation for the locals, and has been very popular among tourists as well.

 More than 150 women, children and men from the village showed their support for the culminating activity of the Pekan Budaya Padi Insdonesia 2007 or the Week of Rice Action 2007 (WORA Indonesia) by participating in the parade of the andongs. The villagers went to the Kapatihan to meet Sri Paduka Pakualam IX, the Deputy Governor and a close relative of the Sultan. Sultan Hamengkubuwono X was unavailable to meet the villagers since he had to attend an official meeting in Jakarta.

 During the meeting, the villagers were given the opportunity to voice out their concerns to Sri Pakualam. Ms. Wijiyatini, a woman farmer and a community organiser of a local women’s group, Gita Pertiwi, told the Deputy Governor that the women and farmers in their community urge the government to respect the value of rice culture and the farmers’ traditional knowledge in agriculture. She likewise asked the government to uphold and support ecological farming practices in the communities.

 “If the government ignores the agricultural sector, poverty in Indonesia will not be solved. People will leave the kampung (villages) and will be left with no option but to migrate to the cities and take on unskilled jobs., said Mr. Witoro, the Coordinator of Koalisi Rakyat untuk Kedaulatan Pangan (KRKP).

 Sri Pakualam showed his support for the farmers and the villagers by saying that the villages and farming communities can learn a lot from the traditional knowledge that their ancestors have about farming. Rituals and traditions in planting rice, like the Selametan, should be remembered and upheld. He likewise asked the help of the farming communities in rebuilding the lumbung desa, the traditional food storage in the villages.

 The activities of the week-long WORA celebration which started on 2 April were held at the community center of Mandungan I. This event was organised by Ikatan Petani PHT Indonesia (IPPHTI) in coordination with other groups such as KRKP, Sekretariat Bersama Indonesia Berseru (SBIB) and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). WORA Indonesia 2007 featured different activities such as seminars on rice culture, cultural presentations on rice, art competition for children, cooking contest, and film shows.

 Mandungan is a farming community practicing organic farming and integrated pest management. According to Mr. TO Suprato, the coordinator of the IPPHTI, the farmers in the village have been practicing organic farming since 1990, and have been pesticide free since 1995. He asserts that organic rice farming is not only beneficial for the health of the farmers and consumers, but it also protects the soil from mineral depletion. He also pointed out that since organic farming needs less production input, the farmers could therefore earn more income.


WORA 2007 is being celebrated by different farming communities and peasant organisations in 13 countries all over Asia. WORA will feature the gathering of peasants and farmers, women, consumers and other sectors of society to highlight the value of rice culture, farmers’ wisdom, and ecological agriculture, and the threat of landlessness and GE Rice. It likewise aims to highlight people’s food sovereignty and take critical actions to strengthen people’s opposition against corporate control of rice and rice lands in Asia.


 4 April 2007 – Bhubaneswar, India - The Week of Rice Action 2007 culminated over a three-day stretch from 2 to 4 April 2007 in two states in India.

 Delegates from PAN AP and WORA anchor organizations in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka joined Indian delegates to culminate WORA in West Bengal and Orissa.

 The West Bengal event was a seminar entitled “Protecting Rice as Our Identity”,  held in the village of Atghara with almost 400 farmers, villagers and several prominent speakers including Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher from the UK and two ministers from the state – Mr. Naren Dey, Minister for Agriculture and Dr. Murtaja Hussain, Minister for Agriculture Marketing and Relief. Organic rice farmers were recognized in a formal ceremony at the same event. The highlight was the people’s pledge at the end: “We will not grow GE rice in our villages! We will grow traditional rice varieties only! We will not give up our rice lands for commercial development!” The event was jointly organized by Thanal, SEVA (Society for Equitable Voluntary Action) and PAN AP.

 On the 4th of April, 65 people’s organizations culminated WORA in Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa at the National Workshop on Rice organized by Living Farms, Thanal and PAN AP.

 “There couldn’t be a more appropriate location to culminate WORA as Orissa is recognized as the place of the origin of rice in India. Also 1,727 villages have been declared GM free here,” said Devinder Sharma, activist stalwart in the lead session. “Rather than China, it is most likely to be India where GE rice will be approved for commercialization. Therefore, India should be the focus of regional concern in the fight against GE.”

 Other notable speakers such as Dr Ricarda Steinbrecher (Econexus, UK), Farhad Mazhar (UBINIG, Bangladesh), and Ardhendu S. Chatterjee (DRSC, West Bengal) spoke on the threats of GE rice and threats to biodiversity-based ecological agriculture and rice ecosystems.  Leading activists from various states such as Andhra Pradesh, TamilNadu, Chhatisgarh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala and Orissa also presented on the status of rice cultivation in their states.

 “West Bengal is relevant because of the recent Singur and Nandigram issues where thousands of rice farming communities have been abused and displaced because their lands have been grabbed for industrialisation,” explained Usha S. of Thanal, Orissa is also facing the loss of fertile rice lands to mining, rapid industrialization and special economic zones.”

 Devinder Sharma adds, “The focus of India today is the takeover of village rice lands and moving people out of agriculture. By the year 2015, it is estimated that 400 million rural people (worldwide) will quit agriculture. We are going to witness a massive displacement of people.”

 The participants of the workshop collectively dialogued on the issues of rice land takeover and GE rice in the country and in the region, and came up with concrete strategies to save rice and small rice farmers starting with Orissa. For example, there were immediate commitments by 13 organizations to create GE-free villages within the next three months.“This workshop is very important in bringing together so many NGOs working with the grassroots. The participants are already raving about the seminar which gave them a good understanding of not just the political situation, but also the scientific aspect of genetic engineering. This information, sharing and strategizing is invaluable to our struggle. Everyone is simply motivated!” says Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, a farmers’ network in Orissa who also laments the loss of 30,000 traditional rice varieties from the state.

 “Unite for Rice, Unite for Asia!” called Clare Westwood of PAN AP, the lead organizer of WORA 2007 to all the NGOs present. “WORA is not an end unto itself; it is a Beginning – Asia must band together to win this war. We must persevere; we must never give up.”

 She also announced that to date, about 650,000 signatures had been collected for the People’s Statement on Saving the Rice of Asia by all the 13 WORA countries. Delegates from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India proudly presented their signature banners at the close of the workshop to the delight of all present.

 Did Asia need WORA? “Yes,” says Farhad Mazhar without hesitation. “WORA has been effective in raising public consciousness all over Asia about the threats to rice, rice farmers and rice culture as well as strengthening the people’s movement; the people’s power. We can no longer rely on governments to protect us – it is time we, the people, took responsibility to save agriculture and the rice of Asia.”

 All culmination events have been extensively covered by the local press in West Bengal and Orissa.


IRRI told to get out of Asia!

Week of Rice Action culminated in street protests 

Laguna, Philippines--- “IRRI out of Asia!” This was the resounding call of more than 1,000 Filipino farmers that trooped in front of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters on April 3 to protest its’ 47th anniversary and to culminate the highly successful Asia-wide Week of Rice Action (WORA) led by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP).

 Simultaneously, WORA culmination rallies by hundreds of farmers and several international participants were held in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA) office in Quezon City and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) office in the province of Nueva Ecija.

 Farmers, farm workers, fisherfolk, and other rural peoples expressed collective anger over what they called  imperialist control of agriculture, particularly rice. Rice is the staple food and source of livelihood for millions of farmers in Asia.

 Men, women, and children alike exposed to the world the poverty, health and environmental destruction, cultural degradation, and over-all social exploitation wrought by chemical-dependent rice farming and genetically engineered rice. They blamed their increasingly desolate plight on the cruel collusion of agro-chemical transnational corporations (TNCs), subservient governments, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and imperialist-driven research institutions led by IRRI.

 Carrying flags, placards, and rice winnowers painted with their various statements and demands such as “Our lands are not for sale!” “IRRI out of Asia!” “No to GE rice!” “Junk WTO!” and “Resist Agro-chemical TNCs!,” farmers affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or Peasant Movement of the Philippines marched for more than five kilometers to reach the gates of IRRI.

 Upon arriving, they held a noise barrage to symbolize the growing worldwide campaign to stop pseudo-rice research that is not based on sound science but on the corporate agenda to milk profits from millions of already impoverished farmers. 

 Sarojeni Rengam, PAN AP executive director, explained how IRRI, a U.S-created research institution, promoted the Green Revolution and started the cycle of pesticide poisoning and indebtedness among rice farmers around the world.

 She also told of IRRI’s ties with agro-chemical TNCs that are now introducing GE rice at the risk of uncontrolled health and environmental effects and guaranteed seed dependency.

 “We are telling IRRI to get lost, to get out and be with farmers and not TNCs like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer. We don’t want GE crops, especially rice. Rice is so important, it is our own livelihood and food. It is based on our culture and common heritage. We can’t allow IRRI to take over,” said Rengam.

 She also denounced bio-piracy or the TNCs’ attempt to claim as their own rice varieties that farmers have collectively developed for centuries, such as jasmine rice. “IRRI, shame on you!!!” she said, to the cheers and applause of farmers.

 Rengam said that the WORA is part of PAN AP’s long-standing efforts to support and link the people’s fight for food sovereignty all over the world. “It is only through the people’s resistance that we are able to stop this injustice,” she enjoined the farmers.

 Meanwhile, Jun Layosa, an ex-IRRI worker and president of BISSIG (Brotherhood of IRRI Support Services Group), related how Filipino farmers were duped and harassed into selling their lands to IRRI, only to become pesticides applicators that were later illegally retrenched.

 “In the 1960s, before IRRI came, all farmers were able to plant what they wanted, and were able to use the seeds that their ancestors worked for. Now, everyone is completely dependent on costly and hazardous pesticides, and is fast becoming in danger of being reliant on GE seeds,” Layosa said.

 He also hailed the martyrdom of his fellow ex-IRRI workers who have died “exposing the anti-farmer agenda of IRRI.” Seven of them have already succumbed to illnesses related to the long period of working with pesticides used by the research institute.

 Aurelio “Ka Ure” Mercado, who worked at IRRI for 23 years, was also present at the rally despite liver and lung ailments that have weakened him. In a relatively better condition since his hospital confinement last year, the 62-year old Ka Ure said that he was happy to be able to participate in the WORA.

 “Knowing that people are resisting IRRI all over the world strengthens my conviction that we will one day achieve justice,” said Ka Ure.

 Farmer leaders that hailed from the Southern Tagalog provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Quezon, Romblon, and Batangas also shared rice farming problems brought about by the Green Revolution, bio-piracy, genetic engineering, and neo-liberal globalization policies.


Fred Torres of Pagkakaisa at Lakas ng Magbubukid-Timog Katagalugan (PALAY-TK) or Unity and Strength of Farmers-Southern Tagalog said that rice farmers are up to their necks in debt because they cannot plant without buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He urged his fellow farmers not to buy these “IRRI products” that only allow capitalists and landlords to wallow in riches while they sink deeper into poverty.

 Ato Belen of Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Batangas (SAMBAT) or Association of Batangas Farmers said that rice farmers are being forced to buy expensive inputs but their products are being bought cheaply by traders and being defeated at the market by cheap imports from developed countries such as the U.S. He complained that the WTO has made the Philippines, from a major rice exporter in the 1960s, into a major rice importer today.

 “It is no wonder that rice farmers have not tasted an ounce of prosperity that were promised to us by the government,” Belen said.

 Meanwhile, Ka Tatcio of Pagkakaisa at Ugnayan ng Magbubukid sa Laguna (PUMALAG) or Unity and Solidarity of Laguna Farmers said that it was only IRRI and its cohorts that are being kept alive by misleading and even fraudulent scientific researches that only serve to keep corporate control over agriculture, while the majority of peoples are barely able to survive.

 “U.S. imperialism is today’s no. 1 killer!!! It is our very lives that are at stake in the TNCs drive to own rice. This happening not only here in the Philippines but all over the world. We must unite and fight at all levels!” he said.

 More than 100 farmers, led by Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) or Alliance of Farmers in Central Luzon, had similar sentiments and pushed for the dismantling or abolition of PhilRice, IRRI’s local arm in the Philippines.

 As a result of the mass action, a PhilRice representative came out and invited the farmers to schedule a dialogue to further discuss their concerns with the rice research institute.

 Meanwhile, more than 200 farmers of KMP held a protest action in front of the DA, primarily to pressure the agency to stop the commercialization of GE rice in the Philippines.

 Last week, the network Resistance and Solidarity Against Agro-chemical TNCs (RESIST) held a dialogue with agriculture officials, wherein they were promised that the importation of the genetically-contaminated rice Liberty Link  601, found in several supermarkets last year, has been discontinued.

 In solidarity, international WORA participants from Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, U.S., Indonesia and Thailand joined the street protests that marked the campaign’s culmination.

Asian peasants and scientists:

NO to Genetically-engineered Rice; YES to Genuine Land Reform!

 Manila, Philippines--- Peasants and scientists celebrated Asia’s most treasured rice culture by issuing a strong statement that they hoped would reverberate among peoples for the challenging years to come: NO to genetic engineering; YES to genuine land reform.

 In culmination of the Week of Rice Action (WORA) led by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), more than 300 participants attended a forum on genetic engineering (GE) and rice in Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines last April 3.

 The event also became a local highlight when a prominent Filipino activist and lawmaker, newly released from political detention, visited to extend solidarity to WORA participants.

 Scientist-peasant partnership

 In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Angelina Briones, board member of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) or Farmer-Scientist Partnership for Development, Inc. said that scientists are one with farmers in celebrating the rice culture of Asia, one “that preserves traditional rice varieties, knowledge and practices.”

 She recounts that as a chemist, she used to conduct scientific researches that were estranged from the real plight of Filipino farmers, until the NGO community made her aware of the destructive effects of the Green Revolution.

 “In my barrio, the farmers used to have decent living, they had seed granaries and plenty of food for the people. After I finished my studies, I came back and saw little huts and farmers no longer have plenty of food,” she said.

 Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of AGHAM or Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, gave participants an overview of the threats of GE rice, the movement against it, and the objectives of the WORA. “This is not only about protesting GE and transnational corporations (TNCs), but also about celebrating the commonalities of the people in Asia,” he said.

 GE threats and TNC control

 Sarojeni Rengam, executive director of PAN AP, made a presentation on “GE and TNC control in agriculture”. She explained the consolidation of power of seeds and agro-chemical TNCs, only three of which will control the market in 5 years. These TNCs, led by Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta, reap around $21 billion in profits per year.

 She warned that because of collusion between U.S. and other governments in the world, GE seeds are gaining market share, even wit the lack of public acceptance.

 Rengam told of how Monsanto controls most of GE soybeans, maize, cotton, and canola, and how these seeds are linked with particular herbicides that Monsanto also produces. She told of the recent contamination of U.S. rice stocks with Liberty Link 601 GE rice, the way the U.S. Department of Agriculture rushed to help Bayer by deregulating it, and how Bayer refuses to pay compensation for affected farmers. She also said that health and safety questions have not been addressed by Bt rice and Golden Rice.

 She cited a study by Charles M. Benbrook that shows that GE crops did not lessen but instead increased the use of pesticides, contrary to the claims of TNCs. According to the study of GM crops in U.S. from 1993 to 2004, pesticide use has increased by 4.1%.

 Rengam also talked about the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project, which is a TNC endeavour to own the rice genome that rightfully belongs to everybody.

 “To stop the destruction of our rice culture, the spirit of WORA has to continue throughout the years,” she said.

 Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumer Policy Institute in the U.S. talked of the potential problems associated with each step of the GE process, the possible health and environmental issues associated with GE rice, and the economic impact caused by GE contamination.

 Dr. Hansen cited a household survey of 481 farming families in 5 provinces in China, which showed that farmers of Bt cotton spent 40% more on pesticides for secondary pest outbreaks. “GE is acting like a classic pesticide—a silver bullet that fails in the long term,” he said.

 He presented studies which show that GE crops non-target organisms like pollinators and earthworms. Studies that prove GE’s high allergenicity potentials on consumers and adverse health among farmworkers was also shown.

 He told Filipino farmers that the Philippine government will be a fool to approve Bayer’s 2006 application to import LL 62, because no other country has accepted the GE product. He said that there are already 41 major rice-producing countries in the world which has declared a “no-GE rice” policy.

Resounding resistance

 Afterwards, WORA participants from Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, U.S., Indonesia, and Thailand gave solidarity messages and an account of highly successful WORA activities in their own countries.

 “We will go home with hope and confidence that we are doing the right and good thing,” said Montawadee Krutmechai of the Foundation of Reclaiming Rural Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Action (RRAFA).

 Yi Kim Than of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) said that 1,700 farmers joined in their WORA activities. Aside from strengthening the network against GE rice, Cambodian farmers also shared their experiences in seed collection and seed preservation, he said.

 Haekyung Woo of Consumers Korea said that the WORA campaign in South Korea, mainly of symposia and petition campaigns, were a triumph.

 Keisuke Amagasa of the NO! GMO Campaign in Japan said that they were able to stop the field tests of GE crops. He acknowledged that the Japanese government is one of the leading supporters of the International Rice Research Institute and had to be stopped.

 Muhammad Asim Lasin of the Lok Sanjh Foundation in Pakistan denounced their government’s approval of Bt cotton and said that their farmers do not have the capacity to implement “biosafety measures” put into place.

 “I congratulate all the farmers who participated in the WORA, especially Filipino farmers—you have made the leap and for that I salute you!” he also said.

 Frederick Fajardo of Gita Pertiwi in Indonesia told of the promising sustainable agriculture efforts in their country and said that the WORA activities raised public awareness on GE rice.

 Afterwards, Dr. Gene Nisperos, chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy, presented on basic issues and concerns on health and GE rice. He said that while GE rice has mainly been promoted as a solution to hunger, illness, and malnutrition, it will achieve the opposite.

 Dr. Nisperos stressed the unmonitored consequences of GE rice such as diseases, and cited several studies to prove his point. He scored the lax government regulation on GE rice. “We are eating it without computing how much of those fortifications stay in our body and how it will exit,” he said of the so-called Vitamin A rice. He also said that GE rice for oral rehydration is an “unnecessary distraction” from existing solutions such as providing access to safe water and improved sanitation.

 Finally, Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or Peasant Movement of the Philippines, said that imperialist globalization, through the World Trade Organization, is the driving force behind the promotion of pesticides and GE.

 Yet he said that the campaign against GE and TNCs is getting stronger in the grassroots level, with the farmers protecting their community through various means, such as direct uprooting of Bt crops, mass protests, lobbying and policy advocacy, and adopting sustainable agriculture.

 According to Ramos, the primary solution to ending hunger and exploitation of rice farmers in Asia is genuine land reform, especially in a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country like the Philippines where the vast majority of land is controlled by local landlords and foreign agri-businesses.

 “The struggle for land reform can only be won by strengthening the mass movement in Asia,” he said.

 Peasant leader and congressman Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party-list delivered the closing remarks, saying that the “resounding voice of resistance” heard throughout the WORA gave much hope to millions of rice farmers and other rural peoples.

 Afterwards, a solidarity dinner of various Philippine rice cakes and vegetables were served. An invigorating cultural performance was also held, wherein participants sang, danced, and recited poetry to celebrate rice culture and the people’s struggle.

From Jail to WORA

 In an unexpected but much welcome visit, newly released congressman Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna (People First) party-list took time out to express support of the WORA campaign. Ocampo, only that morning, was granted bail by the Supreme Court after finding a murder suit filed against him by the Arroyo government highly dubious and ill-motivated.

 Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and other progressive party-lists have consistently upheld the struggle against feudal and imperialist domination of Third World agriculture. With a membership deeply rooted in the Philippine mass movement, they have been victims of intense political repression, even extra-judicial killings.

 “We are one with your campaign to liberate farmers from all forms of exploitation. Long live international solidarity!” said Ocampo.

 With everyone in high spirits, a toast of local rice wine served in bamboo cups formally ended the event.