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Threat to Wild Rice


The Anishinaabeg -- the Native American tribes from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada who have cultivated Manoomin (Wild Rice) for thousands of years -- have started a dialogue on how to protect wild rice as an indigenous resource. The following information was produced by the White Earth Land Recovery Project as a result of a collaborative meeting between representatives of many Native American (American Indian) tribes.

Your support will be critical in protecting wild rice from corporate takeover. Wild rice is not only an important economic source of wealth for the Anishinaabeg. It is also integral to their spirituality. Please help to stop this cultural genocide.


1) Two California companies have received patents on hybrid strains of domestic (paddy) wild rice. Their work involves male sterility in wild rice. Increasing the male sterility of wild rice, which destroys the natural reproductive process of wild rice, will have the potential of requiring ricers to purchase wild rice seed to replenish rice beds.

2) The University of Minnesota in collaboration with big seed and chemical companies has completed a map of the genome of wild rice. This is a first step in genetically modifying or altering the wild rice.

It is likely that wild rice has already been or will be genetically modified in laboratories, and it is only a matter of time before field trials take place, which is when genetic pollution of our sacred wild rice will begin.

The clock is ticking, and university and private researchers are moving to profit from their work on wild rice. It is urgent that tribes address the issues and take action.

Genetic modification, which means altering life from a genetic level, facilitates corporate control or claims of ownership over wild rice through the use of patents.

Genetically modified rice has the potential to irreversibly alter natural strains of wild rice when released into the environment.


There is a long controversy about the misrepresentation of paddy rice as wild rice, and this has already caused great economic hardship to our communities. The labeling laws designed to protect our wild rice labels were repealed by the Minnesota Legislature (the only state with any protection whatsoever). This problem is getting worse as well.

Hybridization of wild rice -- the development of varieties that exhibit desired characteristics for industrial production -- could eventually lead to the extinction of real wild rice.

The biological makeup within an organism, which can be reduced, expanded and/or isolated for diverse purposes.
The complete genetic makeup of an organism, which makes the genetic material more accessible to researchers by pin-pointing specific genes.
The act of cross breeding organisms to obtain a desired effect through the exchange of genetic information.
A grant made by the government to an inventor, assuring the sole right to make, use, and sell the invention for a certain period of time.
Male Sterility:
A naturally occuring expression in some male Wild Rice plants. It is this trait that researchers have used to develop paddy rice and patent.
Genetic Modification:
The act of taking or adding genetic materials in certain combinations to change or modify an organism.
Paddy Rice:
The hybrid rice made through cross breeding that has been designed to be cultivated in farm paddies and mechanically harvested.
Lake (Natural) Rice:
Rice that is natural and free of genetic/scientific modification and is cultivated in its natural environment of lakes and streams.
Genetic Engineering:
The act of extracting and implanting genetic materials from one organism to another in order to produce new or modified organisms.
Genetic Alteration:
The act of altering the naturally occuring genetic sequence of an organism to reach a desired effect.
Treaty/Sovereignty Rights:
Inherent rights given to Indigenous Peoples that protect their culture and traditions and the land; these precede patent laws.
Community education of community members and tribal leadership through workshops and presentations on these issues. Tribal governments can establish laws to control or prohibit genetic research that could potentially be detrimental to the people and the environment. Tribes can conduct research to find out if any field trials are being conducted in their areas.
Tribal leadership could work together to establish protective policies at the state and provincial level to protect their collective interests. Conduct regional workshops and presentations on genetic technologies and the threats to wild rice for tribal leadership.
Challenge existing and future patents on wild rice. Work to diminish the market for hybrid rice by educating consumers. Work collaboratively to establish national policies which protect the collective interest of Anishinaabeg. Research language in international treaties, conventions, and declarations that are supportive of the rights of the Anishinaabeg to protect their collective rights.


Wild rice is central and sacred to the heart and spirit of the Anishinaabeg (and other indigenous peoples).

The Anishinaabeg territories are the center of origin for natural diverse original strains of wild rice.

Wild rice is an essential part of Anishinaabeg sustenance and survival, and its integrity is threatened by corporate control.

The right and responsibility to protect wild rice for future generations is an inherent right of the Anishinaabeg, and is further protected by our self-governance, sovereignty and treaty rights.

If you have questions or comments, please call or email WELRP at:

White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP)
32022 East Round Lake Road
Minnesota 56575
Tel: (1-888) 779 35 77

ABOUT THIS LISTSERVER -- BIO-IPR is an irregular listserver put out by Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN). Its purpose is to circulate information about recent developments in the field of intellectual property rights related to biodiversity & associated knowledge. BIO-IPR is a strictly non-commercial and educational service for nonprofit organisations and individuals active in the struggle against IPRs on life. The views expressed in each post are those of the indicated author(s).

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