UN, groups unveil rice ecolabel

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A new ecolabel has been launched globally by a group of over 100 public and private organizations backed by the United Nations to help consumers to identify rice products that were grown sustainably.

The Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Rice Research Institute, launched last September 14 its SRP-verified label that seeks to “reduce the environmental impact of one of the largest food crops in the world.”

“With the new label, consumers will be able to trace the rice back to its origin country. The scheme will also benefit an entire industry,” UNEP said. “By stocking SRP-verified rice, retailers can make significant and measurable contributions to sustainability commitments and climate change targets.”

The label is a product of the over 100-member group’s new assurance scheme that provides consumers the confidence that rice products follow SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice, according to UNEP.

The standard is grounded on “proven best practices and provides a science-based process to assess compliance,” it added.

UNEP said rice production “has an undeniable environmental impact” as over 3.5 billion people rely on the crop as a daily staple.

UNEP noted that rice farming consumes up to one-third of the world’s developed freshwater resources and generates up to 20 percent of global anthropogenic emissions of methane.

“Employing best practices in rice farming can reduce water use by some 20 percent and methane emissions from flooded rice fields by up to 50 percent,” it said.

UNEP said the Assurance Scheme would be managed by Germany-based GLOBALG.A.P, overseeing the approval of qualified verification bodies that will be responsible for inspection of producers based on the SRP Standard.

It added that NEPCon-Preferred by Nature, a Denmark-based nonprofit organization, is the first to be approved to perform SRP verification audits. “SRP was established to address global environmental and social challenges in rice production. The Assurance Scheme offers supply chain actors a robust, cost-effective and transparent path to sustainable procurement,” SRP Executive Director Wyn Ellis said.

“Consumers are increasingly demanding that food is produced sustainably, and now they have a reliable way to choose environmentally friendly rice,” Ellis added.

UNEP said rice farmers’ net income would increase by 10 percent to 20 percent if they switch to SRP practices.

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