Saving Endangered Rice Species
Rice has a deep-rooted influence in most Asian countries. Rice binds together nations like India, China, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam like no other crop in the world. Nearly 3 billion people depend on it as a staple food but ever since the Green Revolution farmers have suffered the effects as local varieties are being pushed towards extinction.
Great changes in agriculture have taken place in Asian countries following the Green Revolution.The introduction of hybrid seeds, which use large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides have started to replace traditional local varieties. Other threat’s to Asia’s rice involve shortage of water, loss of rice lands due to developmental projects, agro-fuels, cash crops etc. Climate change has also played a role in losing rice farmers and farms. And lastly pro-contract farming policies of governments are making it impossible for farmers to regain control over their lives.
The “Save Our Rice” campaign was developed in the wake of all these incidents in order to attempt to bring in and network everyone interested in sustaining rice cultivation – farmers, consumers, NGO’s, students, policymakers, media and the general public- to explore sustaining rice and rice clture.
The pillars to rice wisdom include:
- Rice Culture: To protect and preserve the rich cultural and spiritual heritage that is rice.
- Community Wisdom is the pool of generations of farmer–accumulated knowledge in biodiversity-based ecological rice cultivation. It recognizes farmers as scientists, conservationists, breeders and innovators.
- Biodiversity based Ecological Agriculture is agriculture in harmony with the environment and its people. It involves the preservation of traditional rice varieties and ecosystems where biodiversity is protected and agricultural methods are ecologically is protected and agricultural methods are ecologically sound and safe and sustainable for rice farming communities.
- Safe Food means rice as food safe to produce, handle and consume. This necessitates the rejection of the use of hazardous necessitates the rejection of the use of hazardous substances such as pesticides and risky technologies such as genetic engineering. Food Sovereignty ensures the rights of people and communities to decide on food and agriculture policies, the right to adequate, culturally appropriate and safe food, the right to land and productive resources, the right to sustainable production and livelihoods.
Seed banks play a significant role in protecting seed species. It has been claimed that at one time India was thought to have over 300,000 varieties of rice and today it is estimated that varieties available in the market for commercial sowing has dropped to about fifty.
Melas or festivals are also an integral part of preserving rice. These organized local events give farmers a chance to share information, seeds, and spread awareness. To avoid the destruction of food diversity people must say no to GE rice that is now being mechanized in large farms and dosed heavily with chemicals. Wheat is also being modified to be high-yielding which has resulted in the genetic erosion of not only the crops but also the farm’s diversity.
There are few farmers that practice true organic rice farming. Some contain the wisdom and knowledge to cultivate new species of rice breeds. These farmers are able to use organic farming methods on rice breeds that require less water and withstand pests well. This is something that governments should recognize and find a way to commercialize before exotic rice is completely wiped out.
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