GMOs are consumed in North Korea



1 ASIA BRIEF KOHL FOR EVERYONE IN NORTH KOREA: RESULTS OF THE PARTNERSHIP DEZA DIRECTORATE FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COOPERATION SECTION EAST ASIA EDITORIAL The "Asia Brief" series is intended to inform development specialists and the (Swiss) public about innovations and results of Swiss development cooperation in Asia. Particular attention is paid to the question of how the goal of effective aid is implemented through partnerships between Swiss and local partners. The findings from these experiences should motivate us even more to curb social exclusion in Asia and to halve poverty by 2015 (MDG No. 1). Walter Meyer, Section Head East Asia RESULTS OF THE NORTH KOREA-SWITZERLAND PARTNERSHIP Cabbage plays an extremely important role in North Korea's traditional diet and local economy. The main foodstuffs are rice and maize, but 120 to 150 kg of cabbage are also eaten per person per year, almost half a kilo per day. The main source of food is vegetables in the form of kimchi, especially in winter. This long-lasting Korean version of our sauerkraut is the best-known national dish and an important source of vitamins and trace elements. Cabbage is grown on a total area of ​​over 30,000 hectares. With integrated pest control (ISB), the yield can be increased by 40%. In total, an additional 225,000 tons of healthy cabbage can be harvested every year. Since this corresponds to the consumption of 1.7 million people, a substantial contribution will be made to the Millennium Development Goal No. 1 of halving hunger by 2015 and to food security in North Korea. Switzerland has been supporting the Korean Plant Protection Institute (PPI) of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (AAS) since 2002 in introducing an ISB for cabbage. This involves pest control with biological, cultivation and chemical control measures for sustainable cultivation. The focus is not on chemical but on environmentally friendly methods. The ISB concept was tested on five agricultural cooperative operations. Due to the success, the farms were very motivated to extend the new approach to the entire area cultivated with cabbage, and neighboring cooperatives also showed interest in the ISB concept. Cabbage is currently being grown successfully using the ISB method on 170 hectares. This results in an additional 1200 tons of cabbage per year. This cabbage cultivation on a cooperative farm in the Miru Hills, 150 km from the capital Pyongyang corresponds to a yield increase of 40% compared to conventionally cultivated fields. The ISB is not only more productive, but also more sustainable and environmentally friendly, as fewer pesticides are used. For the cooperative farms, the ISB approach is very profitable despite the slightly higher costs, as they earn around 55,000 won or 40% more per hectare of cabbage, which is almost the annual income of a field worker. In addition, a larger amount of the nutrient-rich vegetables are produced, which contributes to food security. As a direct result of the Korea-Switzerland partnership, around 9,000 people were additionally supplied with an average annual ration of cabbage. At the same time, it was possible to replace dangerous pesticides with environmentally friendly alternatives, thus protecting workers and the environment. In addition, the organic pesticides used have a targeted effect on the pests, while chemical pesticides have a broad spectrum of effects and also kill their natural enemies. The training is crucial for a successful implementation of the ISB. Ten scientists and twenty-five trainers (cooperative and advisory service employees) were trained in such a way that they can now pass on their know-how about ISB and become the starting point for a sustainable, long-term dissemination of knowledge. At the cooperative farm level, over 200 team leaders and farmers have already completed practical ISB training. With this system, another 5,000 farmers can be trained every year. In addition to the training of trainers, ISB courses are also offered at the institutional level at the National University of Agriculture and integrated into the curricula. In addition, the ISB guidelines developed with the strategy officers of the national agriculture ministry will be published. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Results of the partnership page 1

2 SOIL QUALITY AND POLLUTANTS The agricultural potential is limited in North Korea with only 15-20% agricultural area and a relatively short cultivation period between harsh winters. To increase agricultural production, North Korea followed five strategies from the 1950s to the 80s, which were successful until the 1980s and brought increasing yields. These were: more acreage; a shift towards higher-yielding crops; Maximizing inputs; dense planting; Methods for dealing with problems caused by dense vegetation. However, after the soils began to suffer from productivity measures, yields declined. It needed more and more fertilizer for the same amount of production and more and more pesticides to control the pests. From 1995 on there were regular food shortages for various reasons, including: because of natural disasters. Ensuring food security is therefore an urgent, priority task. A shift to more sustainable agriculture is seen as the safest route to food security in North Korea, and this approach is increasingly recognized and supported by the Department of Agriculture. In North Korea there is a system of cooperative farms where 1,000 to 2,000 people live and work together like in a village. A farm covers around 500 hectares (with vegetable production). The state production plan specifies which crops are planted and that up to 90% of the yields are to be directed to the public distribution system. The cooperative operations, which are run by an administrator and a chief engineer, are divided into work teams and sub-teams with managers and engineers. Each team specializes in the cultivation of a certain crop (on the vegetable farms on one vegetable). With 1,000 to 2,000 workers, the cooperative companies form entire villages KOHL FÜR KIMCHI The high nutritional value is not the result of a high energy content, but is due to vitamins and trace elements. Cabbage is a good source of vitamins C and B, as well as iron. When processing into kimchi through fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, the vitamin C is retained, the vitamin B content even increases. In North Korea, regular consumption of kimchi is essential for a balanced diet. The demand for the raw materials for kimchi, especially cabbage types, is consistently high. This is a real challenge, especially for vegetable farms near cities. Therefore, large areas near the city are continuously used for growing cabbage. The consequences are declining soil fertility, the development of soil diseases, pest invasions and generally negative effects on biodiversity and the agricultural ecosystem. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Results of the partnership page 2

3 HEALTHY AND COST EFFICIENT COAL FARMING The yield of ISB fields is on average 40% higher than that of chemically treated fields. In the case of early varieties, for example, an average of 32 tons of cabbage per hectare could be harvested, compared to 22 tons per hectare for conventionally treated fields. The organic pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is currently still more expensive than chemical agents, but the additional income from the higher yields clearly exceeds the additional costs. A chemical treatment costs around 15,000 won per hectare, one with Bt twice as much. With the above-mentioned additional yield of 10 t per hectare, the ISB results in additional income of 70,000 won, which by far compensates for the 15,000 won additional costs for the organic pesticide. The remaining additional income of 55,000 won per hectare of cabbage corresponds to 11 monthly wages (5000 won / month) for a field worker. The crop yield for cabbage increases by an average of 40% (e.g. from 25 to 35 t per hectare). In this case, thanks to ISB, a cooperative farm earns 40% more per hectare of cabbage, which is why the net profit is significantly higher than on a conventional farm. This means that on an average vegetable farm with 1500 workers, where 20% of the total 600 hectares of cultivated area is planted with cabbage (120 hectares), 110 additional annual wages can be earned by field workers. RECIPE FOR KIMCHI Ingredients: 1 whole cabbage (5kg), 1kg radish; 100g leaf mustard 500g salt; 100g spring onions, 50g garlic; 20g ginger; 50g red chili peppers; 20g sugar, 50g salted anchovies; 50 g of salted prawns. Preparation: Soak the halved cabbage in salted water (10%) and let stand in a bowl for 4 to 24 hours. Chop chili peppers, radish, spring onions and leaf mustard; Mash and mix garlic, ginger, anchovies and prawns, add sugar. Now wash the pickled cabbage, place the hot mixture between the leaves, roll everything and keep these rolls in a bowl that you cover with the outer leaves of the cabbage. After 2 to 3 days, put everything in preserving jars, fill up with salt water and close for fermentation. Two members of a cooperative are weighing a cabbage. You want to compare the yield from ISB fields and conventional fields. In conventional cultivation, chemicals such as deltamethrin and monocrotophos are used. Monocrotophos is an organophosphate and, according to the WHO, is classified as a 1b pesticide "very dangerous". Deltamethrin is a class 2 pesticide and is still “moderately dangerous”, while the bio-pesticide Bt belongs to the U group and therefore “should not pose a risk in normal use”. The harmful effects of pesticides are quite dramatic: no data are available on North Korea, but studies from four Asian countries have shown that pesticide poisoning occurs in 3% of agricultural workers. According to the WHO, one million serious accidental poisoning cases are registered worldwide every year, and the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher. The long-term indirect effects of pesticide residues in food are still being investigated. Some studies show clear associations with serious illnesses such as cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Replacing chemical pesticides with biological pesticides in North Korea will not only increase yields, but also protect people from the harmful short- and long-term effects of pesticides. Bt also has the advantage that it specifically attacks the problematic caterpillar. All other insects are not affected, which has a positive effect on the natural balance of the insect populations in general and on the natural enemies of other pests. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Results of the partnership page 3

4 BIOLOGICAL PESTICIDES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN CHEMICAL ISB is an integrated pest control with biological, cultivation and chemical control measures for sustainable cultivation. The measures must have the intended effect, be cost-effective and safe for farmers and consumers, and be environmentally friendly. In contrast to conventional pest control, which is primarily based on decisions with a short time horizon and the generous use of chemical pesticides, the focus at ISB is on long-term prevention or solving pest problems. An ISB can also include chemical measures, but attempts are made to use as few pesticides as possible and to keep the associated negative consequences to a minimum. The aim is to achieve a sustainable improvement in the production of cabbage in North Korea and thus to contribute to food security. Damage to plants and reduced yields from the worst pests, the cabbage cockroach and the cabbage cockroach and the cabbage cockroach Plutella xylostella caterpillar and adult animal has developed resistance to chemical pesticides Studies indicate massive insect damage, namely by the cabbage cockroach Plutella xylostella and the cabbage cockroach Pieris rapae. In certain areas the entire harvest is sometimes destroyed by pests, and it is not uncommon for more than 50 caterpillars to be found per cabbage. Chemical insecticides imported from China are used, but their effectiveness is limited, as many pests, especially the diamond back moth, have developed resistance. Insecticide resistance is a genetically inherited ability to survive certain doses of a pesticide unscathed. The pest then no longer reacts to the treatment and continues to spread. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Partnership results page 4

5 BIOLOGICAL PESTICIDES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN CHEMICAL If resistance occurs, continued use of the pesticide, such as the pyrethroid deltamethrin, which is frequently used in North Korea, only has a negative effect on the pest population: the chemical also destroys insects that would otherwise keep the resistant pest population in check. Although pyrethroids are considered to be relatively safe, even in high doses there is a risk of acute poisoning in humans (damage to the nervous system), and they are also poisonous for fish and bees. An ISB makes it possible to solve these resistance problems and produce more sustainable and profitable cabbage. In close cooperation with administrators, managers and workers of cooperative companies, applied research, training and knowledge transfer on the subject of development and implementation of the ISB in cabbage cultivation has been carried out for several years. Methods, instruments and techniques were tested in field trials and generally accepted strategies were developed. The strategy is based on the following key points: 1. Planting clean seedlings to prevent or delay the development of the pest population; 2. Replace chemical pesticides with biological pesticides. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to combat the two particularly problematic pests mentioned above. Bt also strengthens the influence of its opponents, the so-called natural enemies, to whom, unlike chemical pesticides, it does not harm; 3. release of natural enemies (the parasitic wasp Diadegma semiclausum to control the cockroach); 4. Use of pesticides according to the damage threshold model (see below). As mentioned under point 2), the ISB in North Korea uses the biopesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt is a bacterium that occurs naturally in the soil and on plants. For pest control, Bt is produced and propagated in special facilities and used as a microbial insecticide. There are different strains of Bt, each attacking different pests. THE PEST THRESHOLD MODEL On farms, insecticides were often sprayed preventively or when the pest density was low. The damage threshold model is based on the idea that spraying only makes sense if the number of pests reaches a limit, the damage threshold, above which the producer's income without using pesticides falls. With a simple procedure that was developed in Switzerland, a field check can determine where the damage threshold is and therefore avoid unnecessary treatments. The procedure is a basic instrument for field control, with which the workers on the cooperative farms in North Korea can decide on a sensible use of insecticide. Little Cabbage Whiteling Pieris rapae caterpillar and adult animal A local pilot facility that produces the biopesticide Bacillus thuringiensis is being supported to promote the ISB strategy for cabbage on a large scale. The production system produces a high-quality Bt without the need for technically complex, maintenance-intensive systems or energy-intensive processing steps. After initial trials in 2007 with the support of Chinese specialists, the pilot facility will produce 8 t of biopesticide per year enough to apply ISB to 2000 ha of cabbage and in 2004 an important natural enemy of the cabbage moth was exposed: the parasitic wasp Diadegma semiclausum. The wasp destroys the pest by laying its eggs in the caterpillars of the cabbage moth, which are then eaten from the inside out by the parasite larva. Once established, these natural enemies can play an important role in sustainable, economical pest control. The released wasps were initially bred in Switzerland and are now, after training at the Plant Protection Institute (PPI), produced in its laboratories in Pyongyang. A total of 19,500 and 25,000 parasitic wasps were released on five cooperative farms in the two test years. During these years a positive effect could be determined, but the wasp has not yet established itself permanently. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Results of the partnership page 5

6 TRAINING FOR INDEPENDENT DISTRIBUTION The training for disseminating know-how about ISB took place at various levels with specific topics.The training for the scientific staff of the plant protection institute was devoted to aspects such as the development of a damage threshold model, the concept and analysis of field studies on ISB as well as technical aspects such as the rearing of parasitoids of the cabbage moth. The use and maintenance of the pilot production facility as well as the manufacturing processes required for sufficient production of Bt for the cabbage fields throughout the country were also dealt with. The focus of the participatory ISB training for advisory officials and farmers was the imparting of general knowledge about cultivation, biological and chemical ISB methods as well as practical exercises to identify cabbage pests and the complex system of natural enemies. Finally, the participants also got to know the difference between chemical insecticides with broad spectrum action and the specific biopesticide Bt in the cabbage field. Practical exercises at cooperative farm level TRAINING ON THE FARM The participants learned to differentiate between “good” and “bad” insects. To explain to farmers in North Korea the complex interactions of an agricultural ecosystem on which the ISB is based, a participatory approach known as Farmer Participatory Training (FPT) was chosen. This method is particularly suitable for training in complex content such as ISB. In groups of up to 25 farmers, they discovered the relevant relationships in practical exercises and through the exchange of knowledge. For the training courses on the farm, a manual adapted to the Korean context about ISB at Kohl was written in English and Korean. It contains a brief introduction to ISB, methods and instruments. The focus is then on identification and knowledge about pests, diseases and natural enemies in the cabbage field and a curriculum with exercises for introducing ISB in cabbage cultivation at the cooperative level. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Results of the partnership page 6

7 PERSPECTIVES FOR THE FUTURE The system of cooperatives in North Korea is strictly hierarchical. Therefore, several hundred farmers and a considerable area of ​​cabbage can be reached with training on a single farm. Further ISB methods such as crop rotation, colored fallow areas / strips of beneficial organisms, mixed crops and green manure were tested on “model ISB coal cooperative farms”. These provide a habitat or food for natural enemies of the pests (colored fallow areas / strips of beneficial insects, mixed cultures, green manure) or interrupt the life cycle of the pests (crop rotation). The benefit usually only becomes apparent after a long period of use. A very positive attitude on the part of farmers towards these methods as well as state support (especially for mixed crops and crop rotations) will contribute to their spread. The authorities have decided that the ISB approach will be widely applied. Two courses for the training of head trainers have already been held. For the ISB to have a successful, sustainable multiplier effect, it is crucial that there are enough qualified trainers available. That is why the training of scientists from the plant protection institutes is in the foreground in the first phase. These become chief trainers and pass on their knowledge to farm and land consultants, who in turn train the farmers to implement the ISB in the field. So far, 10 chief trainers (scientists) and 25 trainers (farm or land consultants) have been trained. Each trainer can pass on his knowledge to 200 farmers per year during the cabbage-growing season. 5000 farmers are trained in one season. By the end of 2008, a further 20 chief trainers and 25 trainers are to spread the ISB method. This will reach 50 cooperative businesses with around 20,000 farmers who manage around 80,000 hectares of arable land. Sufficient capacities should be built up within three to five years to manage the entire 30,000 hectares of cabbage fields in North Korea with ISB. The goal for the future is to really use the advantages of the ISB for cabbage and to ensure that the population of North Korea benefits from the resulting, easy-to-realize additional yield from cabbage. Further aspects of sustainable land use (soil health, fertility) are included in the ISB approach and lead in the direction of integrated crop management (ICM). The successful ISB approach is now also being applied to maize, one of the three most commonly grown crops in North Korea. In parallel to the ISB training for cabbage cultivation, ISB capacities for maize will also be built up in the future, so that in 2008 around 15,000 hectares of maize will be cultivated using ISB methods on these 50 cooperative farms. If the entire 30,000 hectares of cabbage in North Korea are grown using ISB methods, this should result in additional income of 28,000 annual wages for field workers. The additional 225,000 tons of cabbage created cover the annual needs of over 1.7 million people. This could also open up export opportunities, as many Koreans live abroad and appreciate kimchi, especially if the ingredients come from healthy, environmentally friendly cultivation. The expansion of local production capacities is important for expanding the approach: a pilot plant has already been set up for Bt production and for the rearing of natural predators such as the parasitic wasp species Diadegma. Similar systems are in preparation for Trichogramma, which is used in maize cultivation as a natural enemy of the European corn borer. 4 rearing units should be available for Trichogramma. October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Partnership results page 7

8 published by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), East Asia Section, Freiburgstrasse 130, CH-3003 Bern In collaboration with CABI Europe Switzerland Rue des Grillons 1 CH-2800 Delémont Concept: East Asia Section and Urs Heierli, msd consulting, CH- 3007 Bern Photos: Manfred Grossrieder, Beate Kiefer, Kang Song Il Order from: or download under Further reading: October 2007 Asia Brief «Kohl for everyone in North Korea Results of the partnership page 8