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Vietnam rice project wins St Andrews prize

An initiative 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 only international environmental prize in the UK.

Monina Escalada, a representative from the project team in the Philippines, was presented with the $25,000 award at a dinner held last night (Thursday 9th May) as part of a of two-day seminar at the University of St Andrews.

Research shows that too 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 actually create an environment favourable 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 argue that overuse and incorrect spraying of insecticides is due to years of aggressive pesticide advertising, lack of knowledge and incorrect estimations of crop losses.

Monina Escalada said: “We would 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 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.”

Lewis Macdonald, Deputy Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning, who presented the award, said: “Universities are the channels through which innovative thinking transforms the way we live. It is critical that we improve the links between our academic institutions, industry and wider society. The St Andrews Prize provides a concrete example of the way in which new ideas can change our lives for the better. We are proud to have this international initiative taking place here in Scotland.”

Sir Crispin Tickell, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the St Andrews Prize, said: “Our debate over very different proposals brought out the strengths and qualities of each. In the end we decided to give the prize to a proposal of obvious and lasting benefit to millions of people which could and should be a model for others: the cultivation of rice by methods which combine the benefits of the old and the new, and avoid the hazards which have so damaged rice and other cultivation of grains worldwide.”

Two St Andrews Prize runners up each received $5000. The first is a 15-year old student from India who has devised an innovative plastic waste recycling process for use in the home, office and in public places. The second is a London based environmental TV production company who aim to create Public Service Announcements to advertise solutions to the global water crisis.

The prize, an international initiative of the University of St Andrews and the energy company Conoco, was formally launched by the Rt. Hon Alistair Darling MP, in 1998.

Notes to Editors 1. Now in its fourth year, the St Andrews Prize aims to encourage innovative projects world-wide by providing seed money for good ideas, as well as providing ongoing connections and support. 2. Previous winners of The St Andrews Prize include:  Daniel Limpitlaw, an environmental engineer from Johannesburg, who won the first St Andrews Prize in 1999. His project to reverse the damage caused by environmental degradation from early mining developments is now receiving commercial backing.  The joint winners for 2000, two Palestinian academics, Prof. Hikmat Hilal and Dr Amer El- Hamouz, who proposed to turn the waste of olive oil production into valuable by-products. Their project has recently been awarded a $90 000 grant from the Islamic Bank of Saudi Arabia to build a pilot project.  In 2001, George Odera Outa of the University of Nairobi, Kenya. His project related to the environmental hazards that are choking Lake Victoria and threatening the livelihoods – and the health – of the four million people who live around it. Through traditional African theatre of song, dance and drama, Odera Outa plans to make the community more aware of what is happening and what they can do about it. 3. The St Andrews Prize board of trustees, chaired by Sir Crispin Tickell, former Convener of the British Government’s Panel on Sustainable Development, include: Baroness Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain; Prof. Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency; Julia Marton-Lefevre, Executive Director of Leadership for Environment and Development International; Sara Parkin, Director of Forum for the Future; Dr Alun Anderson, Editor in Chief of The New Scientist; James Currie, Consultant in EU and US Public Affairs; Archie Dunham, Chairman and CEO of Conoco Inc.; Prof. David Fisk, Chief Scientist at the UK Dept. for Transport, Local Government and the Regions; Keith Henry Group Executive Vice President and Chief Executive of Kvaerner Engineering and Construction plc.; Dr Colin Hicks, Director-General of the British National Space Centre; Prof. Brian Hoskins, Prof. of Meteorology at Reading University; The Rt. Hon. Lord Jenkin of Rodin, Chairman of the Foundation for Science and Technology; Richard Sandbrook, Senior Adviser to the International Institute for Environment and Development (representing HRH the Prince of Wales); Dr George Watkins, Chairman and MD of Conoco (UK) Ltd and Dr Brian Lang, Principal of the University of St Andrews. 4. Logos and photographs are available from Colman Getty PR. Tel: 0131 477 7950 5. Further information about the prize is available at www.thestandrewsprize.com 6. The prize winner and runner-up will be available for comment after the announcement. Professor. Ian Johnston of the University of St Andrews and Dan McGeachie, of Conoco, co-ordinators of the prize, are available for interview and comment. Sir Crispin Tickell, chairman of the board of Trustees, is also available. 7. A debate on the future of fishing and fish stock is being led by the Earl of Selborne and Hamish Morrison held on at 9.30am on Friday, 10th May as part of the two-day seminar. Please see press statement below.

For further information contact: Sara Dunbar or Rebecca Salt, Colman Getty Scotland PR Tel: 0131 477 7950 Fax: 0131 477 7951 Email: sara@colmangettypr.co.uk or Nicky Stonehill in St Andrews on mobile: 07740 681560

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PRESS STATEMENT

DEBATE ON THE SUSTAINABILITY OF FISHING – FRIDAY 10 MAY – UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS

The future of fishing and fish stocks will be the debate at the St Andrews Prize seminar, University of St Andrews, 9.30am to 11am on Friday 10th May.

The debate is part of a two-day conference to announce the winner of this year’s St Andrews Prize, the only international environmental prize in the UK.

The opening presentation will be given by the Earl of Selborne KBE DL FRS who, as Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, published a critical report in December 2000 entitled “Unsustainable Fishing: What is to be done with the Common Fisheries Policy?¿

Also contributing to the debate will be Hamish Morrison OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

The debate will look at the global implications of current policy and the long-term prospects for protein from the sea and consider whether fishing can be managed in a sustainable way.

The seminar will be chaired by Sir Crispin Tickell, former Convener of the British Government’s Panel on Sustainable Development and attended by eminent representatives of government, business, environmental organisations and universities including Sara Parkin, Director of Forum for the Future; James Currie, Consultant in EU and US Public Affairs; Archie Dunham, Chairman and CEO of Conoco Inc.; Prof. David Fisk, Chief Scientist at the UK Dept. for Transport, Local Government and the Regions; Dr Colin Hicks, Director-General of the British National Space Centre; The Rt. Hon. Lord Jenkin of Rodin, Chairman of the Foundation for Science and Technology; Richard Sandbrook, Senior Adviser to the International Institute for Environment and Development (representing HRH the Prince of Wales); Dr George Watkins, Chairman and MD of Conoco (UK) Ltd; Baroness Howe, Chairman of the BOC Foundation; Sir William Stewart, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Bruce Crawford MSP, SNP Shadow Minister for Environment and Sir Fredrick Holliday, Chairman of Northumbrian Water.

You are cordially invited to attend the seminar, which will be held in the Old Union Diner, Butts Wynd (off North Street), St Andrews.

For further information contact: Sara Dunbar or Rebecca Salt, Colman Getty Scotland PR Tel: 0131 477 7950 Fax: 0131 477 7951 Email: sara@colmangettypr.co.uk or Nicky Stonehill in St Andrews on mobile: 07740 681560

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