iCOOP KOREA is the second largest consumer co-op group in Korea. As a leading protagonist of ethical consumerism in civil society, it has engaged in various socioeconomic activities for protecting domestic agriculture and environment since 1998 when it was founded. Our business and activities cover direct-dealing of eco-friendly products, merchandising of more reliable processing foods, fair trade, improvement of food safety and free school lunch campaigns.

The Background of iCOOP KOREA’s Activities for Rice Paddies’ Organisms

Since the early 2000s, the market for eco-friendly agricultural products has grown due to government policies and organic farmers’ efforts. However, the more the organic market expanded, the more imported organic products flooded in, and this cycle has led to domestic eco-friendly products’ congestion. The Hong-seong region which has been iCOOP KOREA’s main eco-friendly farming site for a long time also suffered from a pile-up of rice. Moreover, consumer preference for rice has changed, so consumption level of rice gradually has decreased.

In order to resolve this issue, ‘Research on rice paddies- organisms’ to study the rice paddy ecosystem was started in a collaboration with both producers and consumers initiated by iCOOP KOREA. We began to exchange information on programs with co-ops in Japan because consumer and agricultural co-operatives, NGOs and many researchers and farmers in Japan already have realized the significance of the rice paddy ecosystem through their own activities. Thus “Research on rice paddies’ organisms” carries an important purpose in supporting eco-friend cultivation practices, interest in reliable and healthy food, and consumer’s efforts to enhance the ecosystem in agriculture. This is a new approach to eco-friendly agriculture, a topic in which the Korean co-operative movement has been concerned with for 30 years.

More Background on Activities and ‘Research for rice paddies’ organisms – The Ramsar Convention

iCOOP KOREA held ‘the 1st Korea-Japan Joint Rice Paddy Ecosystem Research Exchange’ with the Rice Paddy Organism Survey Project, a Japanese NPO. This event paved the way for various activities that members in iCOOP KOREA organized research for organisms in rice paddies, education about rice paddies and experience programs. Also, research on taste and yield to practice integrated biological diversified management in rice paddies is under way by producers.

Along with an upsurge in biodiversity in rice paddies, ‘Gyeori’, the rice paddy ecosystem research committee has been established by co-op members. Its activities are connected to consumers’ interests in sustainable agriculture and ecosystems in Korean native rice consumption. Being supported by continuous activities for rice paddies’ organisms by Korean and Japanese NGOs, the resolution X.31.Enhancing biodiversity in rice paddies as wetland systems was adopted at the 10th Ramsar Convention in Korea in 2008.

The Resolution confirms rice paddies are not just producing site but also have precious value as wetland where various organisms inhabit. Just three years later, in July 2012, the 11th Ramsar Convention was held in Romania and delegates adopted significant Resolutions including Agriculture-wetland interactions: rice paddy and pest control. NGO activists in Korea and Japan held a symposium and promotional activities so that 2the 011 resolution still could adopt the contents of 2008 COP10 X31.

Only 30-40 years ago, agriculture in Korea was an important socioeconomic part in society, but agriculture is now losing ground. We cannot imagine society without agriculture. As diverse organisms live in rice paddies, we hope diverse human lives could continue through the co-operative movement. iCOOP KOREA’s rice paddy activities is a new leap forward in regeneration of domestic agriculture and conservation ecosystem in agriculture, and iCOOP KOREA believes that this is one of the important methods of putting the 7th co-operative principle: concern for community, into practice.