Stop GE experiment on babies now

Greenpeace demands the HK Government withdraw contaminated baby rice cereal and regulate GE food

Press release - 2006-04-07
At eight o’clock this morning, more than ten Greenpeace activists blocked the main entrance of the Murray Building with more than fifty Heinz rice cereal products, fifty papayas and a big banner of 3.5 x 2 metres, with a slogan “STOP GE experiment on babies NOW!”. The Murray Building is where the headquarters of the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau (HWFB) is located. Greenpeace demands Mr. York Chow Yat-ngok, the Secretary for Health order to withdraw all Heinz rice cereal products contaminated by illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice, and commit his bureau to implementing strict GE food regulations and labelling system in accordance with the Precautionary Principle of the Biosafety Protocol. Activists vow they will continue to block the main entrance until the Secretary accepts their demands.

Greenpeace activists block the entrance to a government building that houses the Hong Kong Health, Welfare and Food Bureau. The activists, who blocked the entrance with papayas and Heinz baby food cereal boxes, are calling for mandatory GE food labelling in the territory, and have vowed to continue their protest at the building entrance until their demands are met by Hong Kong's Secretary of Health, York Chow Yat-ngok. The Greenpeace activists also emptied the cereal boxes on to the ground to protest the allegedly unsafe baby product.

Greenpeace activists block the entrance to a government building that houses the Hong Kong Health, Welfare and Food Bureau. The activists, who blocked the entrance with papayas and Heinz baby food cereal boxes, are calling for mandatory GE food labelling in the territory, and have vowed to continue their protest at the building entrance until their demands are met by Hong Kong's Secretary of Health, York Chow Yat-ngok. The Greenpeace activists also emptied the cereal boxes on to the ground to protest the allegedly unsafe baby product.

Greenpeace activists block the entrance to a government building that houses the Hong Kong Health, Welfare and Food Bureau. The activists, who blocked the entrance with papayas and Heinz baby food cereal boxes, are calling for mandatory GE food labelling in the territory, and have vowed to continue their protest at the building entrance until their demands are met by Hong Kong's Secretary of Health, York Chow Yat-ngok. The Greenpeace activists also emptied the cereal boxes on to the ground to protest the allegedly unsafe baby product.

At the same time Greenpeace announced that illegal Bt GE rice ingredients had been found in another Heinz rice cereal product - Heinz Chinese Yam & Barley Cereal with a best before 12th February 2008.  Two different independent laboratories found that the samples of the same batch of product contain GE ingredients.[1]  "This shows that the stubborn HWFB, which refuses to implement strict control on GE food and to handle the contamination case seriously, has failed to protect our babies from exposing to these unsafe baby food products which are freely sold in the Hong Kong market," said Fung Ka-keung, the Food and Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace.

In the past few weeks, Greenpeace already exposed four cases of GE papaya and GE rice contaminating the food chain in Hong Kong and the mainland China.  However, York Chow was not even able to give a proper response to the media and to stop repeating the irresponsible Bureau's official position, not to mention solving the cases.

Fung pointed out that the Chinese government has not approved the commercialisation of Bt GE rice and has actually punished a number of seed companies in the Hubei Province for selling Bt rice seeds illegally.  In sharp contrast, all that the Hong Kong Government has done in response to the Heinz's contamination case is make an enquiry of the Heinz's distributor in Hong Kong about the use of GE rice.

Regarding the GE papaya contamination cases, the origin, detailed DNA sequence and the characteristics of the engineered gene of the papaya remain unknown.  This kind of unknown GE papaya is not approved for commercialisation anywhere of the world and has not passed any long-term safety assessments.  The Hong Kong Government did ask the farmers to remove the papaya trees but nevertheless not investigate the possible spreading of other GE papaya seedlings and fruits.

Obviously, the HWFB has seriously violated the Precautionary Principle of the Biosafety Protocol which expressly states that lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental-degradation: on Monday, the HWFB used "no evidence shows that GE food has harmful effect on human health" as an excuse not to implement GE food regulations in Hong Kong.

"The HWFB keeps denying the existence of an international consensus on the need for mandatory GE food labeling systems, despite the hard fact that many regions such as the mainland China, Taiwan, Russia, Korea, Japan and the EU already implemented these systems in the past three years. This no doubt makes Hong Kong one of the worst regions in the world regarding GE food regulations," added Fung.

Notes:

[1] The laboratories are GeneScan Analytic GmbH, and Hong Kong DNA Chips Limited.

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