China passed GE rice at the end of 2008 but didn't release the news until a year later.
"The multi-ministerial meeting discussed and passed GE rice and GE corn on 24th Dec, 2008," the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday afternoon in a response fax to Greenpeace's public information request.
"The main decision maker, the Ministry of Agriculture, had hidden this important information from the public for a whole year. All this time, China's 1.3 billion people were kept completely in the dark," Greenpeace Campaigner Lorena Luo said. "Rice is our life. Everybody who eats rice must be informed of all potential hazards, and all concerns must be addressed in the decision-making process. Environmental and health officials need to be more vocal on this issue, and their opinions should carry as much weight as agriculture officials."
For its full commercialization, GE rice is now only required to pass through seed trials and registrations. There are no further mandatory food and environmental safety studies.
Luo added, "If the government approves GE rice, China will be the first country in the world to allow its staple crop to go GE, exposing its people, its environment and its food security to the risky genetic experiment. The commercialization must be stopped right now."
GE rice has neither undergone sufficient long-term safety studies nor comprehensive environmental impact assessments. Many Chinese academics have increasingly voiced their concerns. Professor Jiang Gaoming, an ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said, "There is a potential health risk associated with GE rice. There is no evidence that GE rice is safe and it would be a terrible experiment for China to become the first country in the world to commercialize GE rice."
Just ten days ago, Greenpeace released its latest findings of illegal rice being sold in Hubei and Hunan provinces, a possible consequence of illegal GE rice contamination and illegal growing since 2004. "We strongly doubt that the Ministry of Agriculture is able to control the spreading of GE rice, as well as the escalating of the risks it poses to the people and the environment."
Greenpeace urges the government to immediately stop commercialization of GE rice, and strongly recommends that the government thoroughly evaluate the long-term impact of GE rice on human health, environment, and food security, and release the relevant data and results to the public.
Hans Xu, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86- 13401098073, +86-10-65546931, ext 123
Lorena Luo, Campaigner, Greenpeace China, +86- 13910031754, +86-10-65546931, ext 159
Greenpeace stands for positive change through action to defend the natural world and promote peace. We are a non-profit organisation with a presence in 40 countries. To maintain its independence, Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments or corporations but relies on contributions from individual supporters and foundation grants. www.greenpeace.org.cn