The report covers four broad areas.
1 Problems of Rice Production;
2 Genetically Engineered Rice;
3 Genetic Engineering - feeding the greedy not the world’s hungry;
4 Solutions - the real cutting edge.
The first outlines the nature, scope and types of current rice production as well
as the disease and pest problems that rice farmers face. The second examines
genetic engineering; its lack of precision and predictability and reasons for questioning its safety and longer term usefulness. The report looks at the types of GE rice that are being developed and the myths that the GE industry has propagated about GE rice. Claims that GE rice will reduce chemical use, solve pest and disease problems and feed the world’s hungry are shown to be false.
The report makes it clear that the development of GE is about feeding corporate profits not the hungry of the world. Finally, the report looks at real, cutting edge solutions that take advantage of new technologies such as marker assisted selection, of farmer knowledge, the diversity of rice varieties and the ecological realities of rice growing areas. Some of the solutions, such as mixed farming systems, not only solve pest and disease
problems but create additional sources of income and food for farmers and
Rice yield increases attributed to the so-called ‘Green Revolution’ have been associated with the abandonment of
traditional varieties that have been bred over thousands of years. These land races have been a major source of genetic diversity in agriculture, but many have disappeared with the green revolution. Diversifying the varieties planted has somewhat reversed this trend as old varieties that have been ‘defeated’ by diseases can be brought back into production.
Moving away from industrial agricul- tural practices and the treadmill technologies that genetic engineering embodies does not require an
agricultural revolution - all these solutions exist, and are working in various parts of the world. It does, however, require that governments invest
in the long-term future of their farming and food production systems and that the rice industry recognize that its own long term viability rests with rice production systems that work and that its customers will accept.
Enhancing habitat diversity and genetic diversity of varieties planted may also control pest and disease outbreaks. Habitat management is a strategy to conserve natural biological control by improving the availability of non-rice resources for predators. Diverse food and weed plants growing on farm margins contribute to the diversity in the agro-ecosystem, which can influence the
diversity and abundance of insect herbivores and associated natural enemies in crop systems. Traditional pest control strategies also include direct intervention and deployment of natural predators. In eastern India, traditional farmers often set a few plant wasp nests in the rice farm in order to control pests. Nests of potter wasps and predatory Vespa tropica are placed along the farm on large trees.
Traditional farming systems not only solve pest and disease problems but create additional sources of income and food for farmers and communities. Many of the solutions ensure that farming communities continue to control their land and crops while reducing the environmental and health impacts that have come with industrial agriculture and large scale, chemically intensive monoculture farming systems.