Illegal GE rice found in Chinese supermarket

Press release - 2005-08-03
Greenpeace has discovered illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice in Carrefour’s store in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province in China. Greenpeace demands Carrefour to withdraw and stop selling rice from Hubei, and warns that other retailers are at risk if the Chinese government does not recall the illegal GE rice from the field and food chain.

Face of a child staring through a hole, part of a Greenpeace poster used in the action against GE food.

Carrefour, the world's second largest retailer, is the latest victim of the GE contamination nightmare. Since April, Greenpeace China researchers have uncovered illegal GE rice being grown in Hubei for more than three years, and it has contaminated the rice market even in major cities like Guangzhou (1).

"Carrefour must withdraw the contaminated rice to protect its consumers," said Steven Ma, Greenpeace China campaigner. "We also urge Carrefour and other retailers to stop selling Hubei rice until illegal GE rice is recalled from the field and food chain."

In June Greenpeace researchers collected samples of rice from Carrefour's three stores in Wuhan, and the samples tested positive as GE rice in an independent laboratory in Germany.

"China has not authorised commercialisation of GE rice, therefore any GE rice found in the market is illegal and has not undergone sufficient safety assessment for environment and health. Consumers are unknowingly buying untested GE rice from Carrefour," said Ma, Greenpeace campaigner.

The news is likely to raise concerns that contamination may have spread to other retailers and even international market.

Concerns over GE rice are also rising in China. An opinion poll released by Greenpeace in March, showed that 73% of Chinese shoppers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, would choose non-GE rice over GE rice.

"The government must take immediate actions. Such contamination nightmare will continue unless the government recalls the illegal GE rice," concluded Steven Ma.

Chinese officials promised an investigation into the scandal but it appears that no action has been taken. Meanwhile, more GE rice has been planted in Hubei and the harvest season will begin in late August. Greenpeace estimates that up to 29 tons of GE rice seeds have been sold in Hubei this year, and if no recall action is taken, the seeds could produce up to 14,500 tons of GE rice when harvested.

Other contacts:

Steven Ma, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace China +86-10-65546931 Ext. 158
Natalia Truchi, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86-10-65546931 Ext. 153

Notes:

(1) In April a Greenpeace research team discovered unapproved GE rice being sold and grown illegally in Hubei province. An international laboratory in Germany found 19 samples tested positive as GE Bt rice – which is genetically engineered to produce an inbuilt pesticide. In June, Greenpeace found unapproved GE rice sold in the rice wholesale market in Guangzhou, raising fears that contamination has spread out of Hubei.

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