Unauthorized U.S. genetically engineered rice found in Beijing

Greenpeace urges U.S. to strengthen export control

Press release - 2007-11-20
Greenpeace warned that unauthorized genetically engineered (GE) rice from the U.S. was found for the first time on supermarket shelves in Beijing. The environmental group urges the U.S. government to strengthen export control of food products containing GE ingredients and cautions Chinese consumers against imported rice from the U.S.

Greenpeace warned that unauthorized genetically engineered (GE) rice from the U.S. was found for the first time on supermarket shelves in Beijing.

Greenpeace collected ten U.S. food samples from two supermarkets in Beijing in August and September, and they were sent for testing by Eurofins, a Germany-based independent laboratory (1). The test result showed that one of the samples, Mahatma Extra Long Grain Enriched Rice, contained a herbicide resistant GE rice called LL601. The Chinese authority has not approved LL601 or any other GE rice for import or market sale.

"Without doubt the U.S. government bears the responsibility to curb export products contaminated by unapproved GE rice," said Weizhen Huang, Food and Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace China. "We also call on the Chinese government to further strengthen its biosafety measures to prevent GE contamination from happening again."

GE rice LL601, a product of Bayer, was approved for commercial growing in the U.S in 2006, after it was found to contaminate U.S. rice products. Currently, the U.S. is the only country that allows commercial growing and sale of GE rice. GE rice LL601 has contaminated U.S. food exports to at least 32 countries, including China, where GE rice LL601 has not been approved for import (2). It is estimated that the contamination incidents caused by LL601 rice have cost the farmers and industry US$741 million to US$1.285 billion (3).

Rice is the most important staple crop in the world. It is consumed daily by approximately 2.5 billion people. Chinese research institutes have been applying for commercialization of GE rice in China since 2004, and an incident of contamination with illegal GE rice also occurred, but so far the Chinese authority has not given the green light to any GE rice. "It is unacceptable to experiment genetic engineering on our staple crop. As a major rice exporter, China should also take heed of the potential loss caused by GE rice contamination," added Weizhen Huang.

Survey shows that Chinese consumers are opposed to GE rice. Greenpeace has commissioned IPSOS, a global marketing research company, to carry out a survey in 2007, and the result found that 77% of the respondents in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou prefer non-GE rice to GE rice.

Other contacts:

Sarah LIANG, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86-10-65546931-123
Huang Weizhen, Food and Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace China, +86-10-65546931- 112

Notes:

1. Please note that it is the policy of Eurofins not to publicize the name of the laboratory in public media to maintain its independence.
2. Unapproved GE rice originating from the US was found in 23 European countries. It was also found in China, Ghana, Guatemala, Kuwait, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, and the United Arab Emirates.
3. "Risky Business: Economic and regulatory impacts from the unintended release of genetically engineered rice varieties into the rice merchandising system of the US." a Greenpeace report, written by independent agro-economist Dr. Neal Blue.
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/risky-business/

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