GE Rice contamination spreads to Hong Kong

Press release - 2006-04-03
Illegal GE rice was found for the first time in Hong Kong food market, Greenpeace China announces today. The product in question is Heinz’s Baby Rice Cereal, previously exposed in the mainland to be contaminated by Bt rice genetically engineered to be resistant to pests. The illegal GE rice was also found in ParknShop own rice brand sold in Guangzhou.

Illegal GE rice was found for the first time in Hong Kong food market.

Widespread contamination of Illegal GE Rice in China

"The finding indicates that the scale of contamination by illegal GE rice might be much larger than we have estimated", comments Steven Ma, GE campaigner for Greenpeace China, "the Heinz and ParknShop incidents might be a tip of the iceberg."

The latest round of testing is run by the independent lab, the Hong Kong-based DNA Chips LTD. And GE ingredients was detected in 5 Heinz rice cereal products, contrary to the company's previous claims that no GE ingredients were ever found. Among those 5 products, 2 were sold in the Hong Kong market.  The independent testing also confirms that 3 of the 5 Heinz cereal products contain illegal Bt rice, with a protein (Cry1Ac) that has reportedly induced allergenic-like reactions in mice[1]. Mounting concerns over the safety of GE rice has led the government to adopt a cautious approach by delaying the approval of any GE rice variety for commercial growth last year.

The uncharted danger of the contamination has also alerted some of the most influential players in the market. On 28 March, Carrefour announced that it will not sell illegal GE rice in its stores, ensured by random testing and instant withdrawal of the product. ParknShop, after alerted by Greenpeace about the finding, made the same promise on 31 March that it will implement a surveillance system for its Best Buy rice.

"The quick spreading of illegal GE rice requires the government to strengthen its monitoring over the food market", said Ma, "otherwise this unapproved GE rice may end up in export markets." After the exposure of the growth of illegal GE rice in central China's Hubei province last year, Greenpeace has uncovered the contamination by illegal GE rice in different parts of the food chain, including seed markets, wholesale markets and retail markets. In response to these findings, the Chinese government has allegedly punished seed companies and destroyed GE rice grown in the field. In January 2006, the provincial government of Hubei issued an official notice banning the selling of any unapproved GE seeds.


Table: Heinz baby rice cereal found to contain GE

Location

Description

Batch

Test result

Hong Kong

Heinz Rice Cereal 250g

Best Before 2007 05 13 A/A

NOS Terminator test positive; Bt rice gene sequence found.

Hong Kong

Heinz DHA & Vegetable Cereal 225g

Best Before 2007 01 05 K/C

NOS Terminator test positive; Bt rice gene sequence to be confirmed.

Guangzhou

Heinz Rice Cereal 250g

Best Before 2007 05 13 E/A

NOS Terminator test positive; Bt rice gene sequence found.

Guangzhou

Heinz Rice Cereal 250g

Best Before 2007 03 12 K/A

NOS Terminator test positive; Bt rice gene sequence found.

Guangzhou

Heinz Rice Cereal 400g

Best Before 2007 03 04 G/D

NOS Terminator test positive.



Notes:

[1] Moreno-Fierros, L.et.la. (2000). Intranasal, rectal and intraperitoneal immunization with protoxin Cry1Ac from Bacillus thuringiensis induces compartmentalized serum, intestinal, vaginal and pulmonary immune responses in Balb/c mice. Microbes Infect 2(8): 885-90

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