Rice is the staple food of close to three billion Asians. It is widely used in festivals, celebrations and ceremonies and is an intrinsic part of our culture, traditions and beliefs. However in the last five decades, traditional varieties of rice are disappearing and being replaced with genetically engineered (GE) rice.
The introduction of GE rice eroded biodiversity in the rice fields and degraded the environment due to increased utilization of chemical inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, etc. GE rice has affected the health of farmers and rural women who are exposed to chemical inputs. While it is promoted as a solution to food security and is pushed by corporations whose main goal is only to make profits, the temporary increase in production still resulted to the Rice Crisis in 2008 where hungry and angry people protested in the streets. The relentless pursuit of profits also resulted in lands being grabbed for cash crops which further contributed to famine, poverty and displacement of small farmers. GE rice also failed to provide nutrition that traditional varieties do.
In traditional rice farming communities, rural women’s knowledge in agriculture including seed conservation play an integral part in achieving food security in their household and communities. However, their role is being replaced by corporate control of agriculture.