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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        7  March 2011

Asian rice threatened by pesticides

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Unrestrained use of pesticides in Asia is raising the chance of "pest storms" devastating the region's rice farms and threatening food security, scientists have warned.

Increased production of cheap pesticides in China and India, lax regulation and inadequate farmer education are destroying ecosystems around paddies, allowing pests to thrive and multiply, they said.

The pests - if left unchecked - could lay waste to vast tracts of Asia's rice farms, according to scientists who took part in a workshop in Singapore last week.

"There is increasing concern that the more we use pesticides in rice fields, it is actually making the pest problem worse," Australian scientist George Lukacs said.

Under pressure to raise yields to meet growing demand, poorly trained farmers tend to be over-reliant on the chemicals.

"There are big outbreaks of pests or what they are calling in China 'pest storms' as a result of the over-application of pesticides," Lukacs said.

Rice is a staple throughout much of Asia, including the world's two most populous countries, China and India, making the region vulnerable to soaring food prices and supply problems, economists say.

The UN food agency has said world food prices have already hit record highs and warned oil price spikes caused by upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa could push them even higher.

The Food Price Index, which monitors average monthly price changes for a variety of key staples, rose to 236 points in February from 231 points in January, the highest level since the Food and Agriculture Organization began monitoring prices in 1990.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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