Food Giants Commit to Testing World’s First Sustainable Rice Standard

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Rice is a food staple to more than half of the world’s seven billion people. A large part of rice consumption occurs in Asia, where it is a staple for a majority of the population, including the region’s 560 million hungry people. At the current global population growth rate, the world will have to grow 50 percent more rice by 2050.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) recently convened a group of companies, scientists and government agencies to launch the world’s first global standard for sustainable rice. Called the Sustainable Rice Platform Standard, it is created to ensure rice is produced in ways that are good for the environment, profitable to farmers, and healthy for consumers.

Leading food and agricultural companies that have committed to testing the standard include Kellogg’s, Mars Foods, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Ahold B.V., and Syngenta. Mars Foods, maker of popular rice brand Uncle Ben’s, aims to achieve 100 percent sustainable sourcing of its rice by 2020. Kristin Hughes, global corporate affairs director of Mars Foods, said that with the new global standard, the company can achieve its goal.

UNEP Asia-Pacific Regional Director Isabelle Louis said that the establishment of the standard addresses a long-neglected need for a globally critical crop and the standard represents a fundamental building block for developing the application of sustainability and informing policy formulation.

Rice-producing companies or countries that aim to follow the standard will have to fulfill 46 requirements in eight aspects of rice cultivation. These include farm management, pre-planting, water use, nutrient management, pest management, harvest and post-harvest, health and safety, and labor rights. One of the key goals of the standard is to cut down the amount of methane, a major GHG contributor to global warming, emitted by rice cultivation.

The standard will be downloadable from the website of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a multi-stakeholder group including agri-based companies, scientific institutions and governments that are committed to changing the way rice is cultivated. The standard uses a scoring system in which those who wish to adopt it can do so step by step until full compliance to it.

For instance, achieving a score of 10 to 90 will mean the farmer or the food company is “working towards sustainable rice cultivation.” Once they get scores between 90 and 100, they can be said to be “sustainably cultivating rice” based on the SRP Standard.


Image Credit: Flickr via siebe