A new ecolabel aims to help shoppers reduce their environmental impact by identifying rice that has been sustainably produced.
The ‘SRP-Verified’ Label, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of one of the largest food crops in the world, was launched by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP).
The SRP is a grouping of over 100 public, private, research, financial institutions and civil society organisations led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Over 3.5 billion people rely on rice as a daily staple, but the crop has an undeniable environmental impact. Rice farming consumes up to one-third of the world’s developed freshwater resources and generates up to 20% of global anthropogenic emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The crop will also be the victim of rising global temperatures, with production expected to fall by 15% by 2050 due to climate change, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.
The new Assurance Scheme is based on the SRP Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation, the world’s first voluntary sustainability standard for rice.
It is underpinned by proven best practices and provides a science-based process to assess compliance. Employing best practices in rice farming can reduce water use by some 20% and methane emissions from flooded rice fields by up to 50%.
The scheme will be managed by Germany’s GLOBALG.A.P., which will oversee approval of qualified verification bodies that will be responsible for inspection of producers according to the SRP Standard.
NEPCon-Preferred by Nature, a Denmark-based non-profit organisation that supports better land management and business practices, is the first to be approved to perform SRP verification audits, with several others expected to be approved soon.
“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,” said Wyn Ellis, SRP Executive Director.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding that food is produced sustainably, and now they have a reliable way to choose environmentally friendly rice.”
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.
By stocking SRP-verified rice, retailers can make significant and measurable contributions to sustainability commitments and climate change targets. Industry actors will also be able to de-risk their supply chains and ensure stability by sourcing through SRP-verified suppliers.
Farmers also benefit, according to SRP, who says that switching to its practices can boost farmers’ net incomes by 10-20%. With 90% of the world’s 144 million rice producers living on or near the poverty line, this can make the difference between a secure livelihood and a family going hungry.