Ramsar Convention Adopts Anti-GM Rice Resolution

At the 11th meeting of the Ramsar Convention for wetlands, a draft resolution was introduced that came dangerously close to open a back door to genetically modified rice.

Rice paddy fields in many countries are supporting wildlife such as migratory birds and marine species. The use of pesticides have caused much damage to such sensitive ecosystems. Overuse also leads to resistance among the very pests the chemicals are designed to kill. Instead, traditional knowledge and local solutions should be encouraged to reduce the dangerous use of agrochemicals.

After fierce debate and opposition from NGOs at the meeting in Bucharest, Romania, the text of the resolution was amended at the last day. The final resolution clearly states that only “conventionally bred rice varieties” can be introduced in rice paddies, to protect wetland ecosystems.

“The good reputation of Ramsar was at stake,” notes Keisuke Amagasa, No! GMO Campaign. “Delegates strongly suspected that this document would be used to promote BT rice which kills insects.”

Background: At the meeting in July, 2012, the United States proposed controversial language that would have caused uproar in Asia, where most of the world’s rice is produced. No genetically modified rice has yet been approved in any country, while major rice producing countries are strongly opposed to GM rice. Delegates from Austria, France, Cyprus and Denmark, speaking for the EU, made a great effort to make sure that GM rice was not accepted by the Ramsar Convention. This anti-GM rice position was supported by Japan, South Korea, and China.

Recognizing that irrigated rice fields are a major type of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, pesticide use should be reduced to protect biological diversity. To introduce genetically modified rice, such as BT rice that produces a toxin that kills insects, is not an option in this context. Farmers need help to learn how to reduce pesticide use, but not if that means corporate campaigns to introduce untested and poorly risk assessed GM rice. The message from the Ramsar Convention is: Do not allow GM rice in your country.

Report of the World Wetlands NGO Conference: Petruta Moisi, Eco-Counselling Centre Galati, Romania, on behalf of the World Wetland Network, reported on the recommendations of the World Wetlands NGO Conference, which took place just prior to COP 11, expressing concern over the continued degradation of designated and undesignated wetlands and the failure of many parties to apply the wetland wise use concept in practice. She drew attention to the draft resolutions on: sustainable tourism, stressing the need to balance tourism and local demands on wetland resources; institutional arrangements for the Secretariat, which should bring clear benefits and more involvement of civil society; energy, calling for cumulative impact assessment of small hydropower systems; and agriculture and pesticide use, expressing concern for the potential increased use of genetically modified organisms to control pests.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP11) (ramsar):
The 11th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

“Linkages” (IISD):
COP11 of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Wetlands for Life (WWN)