Dangers of emerging modern rice-agriculture industry
The transformation of the rice industry into a modern, mechanical, chemical, and large-scale production system has introduced a variety of challenges for farmers, including the destruction of local food systems and increased vulnerability of monocultures.
NISTPASS highlights a number of these
1. Necessary involvement of farm machinery
2. Chemical input agriculture and reliance on fertilizer
3. Sharecropping of farmers, who must renew their seed licenses each year
4. Increased vulnerabilities to pests due to monoculture production
NISTPASS points out that investors “want varieties tailored to their model of production – large-scale, mechanized, chemical input agriculture, for export. These investors are trying to redraw the map of global rice production and remake the model of rice farming, and they clearly have no interest in the seeds that small farmers have carefully developed and nurtured to suit their local conditions and cultures.”
“However, hybrid rice’s thirst for fertilizer is indeed a major concern. It raises costs for farmers, especially with fertilizer prices still an all-time high, and causes soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions. The use of high- levels of fertilizers also increases pests and diseases – most alarmingly with planthoppers. Hybrid rice’s susceptibility to planthoppers is well-known, and leading rice entomologists are now linking the resurgence of these pests to the expanding production of hybrid rice.”
These shifts are transforming local agricultural practices and making huge rice production crops vulnerable to pests. Combating this will require coordinated efforts to control productive resources.
It means a determined shift from mono to multi-cropping, and an organised fight to take control of productive resources, starting from the seeds. It also requires that lands be kept in the hands of local communities, by implementing meaningfully land redistribution that would give those communities complete access to the land itself and its resources. It is only with communities’ full control of the land that farmers will be able to control the entire production system. Only this can farmers truly have seed alternatives that can re-orient agriculture, restructure the market, and rediscover the wealth of cultural dietary norms based on biodiversity.
Sources:NISTPASS, Nov 2010 page 7,8:
Why hybrid rice continues to fail Asia's small farmers.