Groups call for IRRI's closure

by GRAIN | 6 Aug 2009

More than a hundred groups across Asia are calling for IRRI's closure less than a year before the Institute celebrates its grand 50th.

IRRI is an international research institution established in 1960, entrusted by the United Nations to safeguard the diversity of the world's rice germplasm at its International Rice Genebank, and mandated to support the development of rice research within national agricultural research systems (NARS). It is the self-proclaimed "home of Green Revolution in Asia"; the central institution through which the Green Revolution model for rice expanded throughout Asia in the 1970s.

It will celebrate its 50th anniversary in the midst of a global food crisis. As of this writing, more than 6.2 million people have already died of hunger while over 1 billion people more are undernourished according to

While IRRI maintains that one of its priorities is to "reduce poverty through improved and diversified rice-based systems", its research continues to be oriented towards plantation-type monocultures based on a narrow diversity of "modern" rice varieties that only respond well to the heavy use of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. Resource-poor farmers and landless peasants have been marginalised and removed from the entire food production process. Over the past half a century, not only has a rich diversity disappeared from the fields to be kept frozen at IRRI's genebank, but many of the traditional knowledge systems that once accompanied seed development on the ground have also been lost. IRRI's model of centralised research has been a dismal failure.

Farmer seed systems and community conservation can do wonders for food security if we would only support them and let them thrive. Various forms  of farmer-controlled seed conservation and breeding activities exist in many counties in Asia, like in Thailand and the Philippines where thousands of farmers are growing local rice varieties and improving them, under their own terms, methods and ways of farming. Sadly, these initiatives are not only ignored by formal research institutions and governments, but also side swept in favour of quick techno-fixes. No wonder 50 years of Green Revolution, yet our food systems are in crisis with poverty and hunger rising across Asia.

New technologies and modern varieties are clearly not the answer. The best thing IRRI can do for rice is to close down and give the seeds it has collected, back to the farmers.

To read the statement in full or sign on, visit:

Author: GRAIN
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