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Project To Educate Vietnamese Rice Farmers Wins Conoco-sponsored International Environmental Prize

Submitted by: Conoco Inc.

Categories: Environment

Posted: May 15, 2002 – 12:00 AM EST


Joint Initiative by Conoco, St. Andrews University Honors New Ideas in Sustainability

May 15 /CSRwire/ - ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - An initiative to try to persuade a million rice farmers in Asia to stop spraying harmful and unnecessary insecticides is the winner of this year's St. Andrews Prize, the U.K.'s only international environmental prize. The St. Andrews Prize - a joint initiative of St. Andrews University in Scotland and the international energy company Conoco - was launched in 1998. Visit http://www.thestandrewsprize.com for more information regarding the St. Andrews Prize.

Monina Escalada, a project representative from the Philippines, was presented with the $25,000 award during a two-day seminar at St. Andrews University - Scotland's oldest university.
Research shows that many Asian rice farmers' insecticide sprays are unnecessary because they are applied at the wrong time and at the wrong targets. The chemicals used, such as methyl parathion, monocrotophos and metamidophos, are often highly hazardous to human health and are banned in the developed world.

These sprays disrupt natural biological control mechanisms - nature's "immune system" - and create an environment favorable to ecologically fitter pest species. This prompts farmers to spray even more in the late season. Not only can farmers become victims of pesticide abuse, but sprays can damage aquatic fauna, reducing fish and prawn cultures.

Most farmers spray in the early crop stages because of highly visible damage caused by caterpillars, beetles and grasshoppers. However, many of the modern rice varieties farmers grow today have built-in insect tolerance and generally do not require pest control.
What appeared to motivate farmers to spray insecticides during these stages are misconceptions, lack of knowledge and biased estimations of loss of crops. A recent study showed that the amount rice farmers estimated to lose if no insecticides were used was about 13 times higher than actual losses.

The project team argued that overuse and incorrect spraying of insecticides is due to years of aggressive pesticide advertising, lack of knowledge and incorrect estimations of crop losses.
"We will use the St. Andrews Prize money to correct this through a multi-media campaign to motivate farmers in the Red River Delta in North Vietnam," Escalada said. "To experiment with new information, change their beliefs and stop spraying unnecessarily and expensively. I have every confidence in this project, as a similar initiative in the Mekong Delta spread successfully to two million farmers over five years."

According to Conoco Chairman and CEO Archie W. Dunham, "Conoco sees it as our responsibility to invest in educational opportunities that lead to a sustainable future. This project's potential to reduce the environmental impact and public safety risks associated with a vital food source and improve the cost-effectiveness of a key economic activity for Vietnam is an excellent example of sustainability."

Conoco (NYSE:COC) is a major, integrated energy company based in Houston and active in more than 40 countries.

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