Agricultural body says that price of growing genetically modified rice
outweighs rise in crop yields in new campaign running until April 2010.
Yay Lin, 75, harvests rice in Bueng Village, Kandal province, in this file photo. A new CEDAC campaign asks farmers to shun genetically modified rice, arguing that seed prices do not justify the yields.
THE Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) has launched a campaign to discourage Cambodian farmers from growing genetically modified rice, which it described as less cost-effective in the long run.
The Year of Rice Action (YORA) officially began May 20 and will last until next April. The campaign is to include workshops, to be held in all provinces and municipalities, promoting the use of domestic rice. CEDAC said it will also spread its message on radio ads.
"We will give farmers ideas for choosing seeds by talking to them directly at the workshops, by holding discussions about natural agriculture and domestic-seed conservation and by arranging exhibitions," Yi Kim Than, the CEDAC official in charge of the campaign, said at an event to launch the campaign last week.
Yi Kim Than said genetically modified rice was first introduced to Cambodia in 1960 and had become increasingly popular "in the 21st century, as some farmers have abandoned traditional seeds to use new ones to get higher yields".
Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun said that farmers growing genetically modified rice ultimately end up paying more because they must purchase expensive genetically modified seeds every year.
In addition, some farmers have found that the yield gains generated by the use of genetically modified rice are modest or, in some cases, nonexistent, said CEDAC officials.
Prak Chres, a farmer in Takeo province, said that domestic rice seeds had, in his experience, offered higher yields than imported ones.
"In fact, imported seeds do not produce high output because they are not familiar with Cambodian land like domestic seeds," he said,
His current yield was roughly five tonnes per hectare, he said, adding that uses of purer domestic rice seeds could lead to yields of 10 tonnes per hectare.
CEDAC President Yang Saing Koma agreed: "Domestic seeds have great potential, but we never bother to purify them," he said.
CEDAC research indicates that 1.8 Cambodian families depend on income earned from growing rice.