Children and Infants in China at Risk of Eating Food Contaminated by Illegal GE Rice

Press release - 2011-04-20
Greenpeace testing has found illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice in baby formulas and dried noodles, as well as rice purchased from restaurants near schools in Hubei province. Illegal GE rice was present in samples collected from Beijing, Wuhan, and Hong Kong, some of which originated from Guangdong province – an alarming indicator of the extent of GE contamination.

Greenpeace testing found genetically engineered Bt63 rice in this baby food product (for infants 6 to 24 months) made by Yili, as well as dried rice noodles

"Genetically engineered rice is still in the research phases and the government has yet to approve it," said Fang Lifeng, Greenpeace Food and Agriculture Campaigner. "Thus we should not be finding GE rice in food at all - especially not in food commonly given to infants and children, who are the most vulnerable of all consumers."

Purchased in Beijing, a rice formula made by leading Chinese dairy company Yili tested positive for GE Bt63 rice at an independent third-party laboratory. The formula is designated for infants 6 to 24 months in age. Testing also found GE rice in dried rice noodles, including in PARKnSHOP-brand (A.S. Watsons Group) noodles purchased in Hong Kong. Rice noodles are a popular food, especially in southern China. Illegal Bt63 was also found in rice purchased from five fast food restaurants located next to three elementary schools in Wuhan, Hubei province. These restaurants are likely visited by children.

"Infants and children are far more sensitive to food toxins and allergens than adults. The Royal Society recommended that any GE ingredients in foods for babies should be investigated most rigorously," pointed out Fang. "As the safety of GE rice has yet to be determined, it is highly alarming to find GE rice in baby formula and foods that are popular with children."

In research commissioned by Greenpeace, Dr. Xue Kun of the Minzu University of China found variations in the protein content between the genetically engineered rice Bt63 and its parent line Minghui63: 169 protein spots varied in abundance by more than two-fold, 114 protein spots by more than three-fold, and 45 protein spots varied by more than four-fold between the two lines.

Dr. Xue said, "The protein differences could be due to unanticipated effects of genetic engineering, and they may also have unintended health and environmental consequences. Without further research into these protein differences, GE ingredients should not be used in foods, especially not in food that may be consumed by children."

Moreover, two GE-positive samples of rice noodles and the Yili baby formula were manufactured in Guangdong, highlighting that GE rice has spread south beyond its origin of contamination in Hubei.

Greenpeace urges the government to immediately stop the commercialization of GE rice, and take drastic measures against GE rice seeds and fields, as well as in the food chain, to prevent further contamination. Greenpeace calls for China to strengthen its biosafety research, and conduct a comprehensive long-term assessment of GE rice's impact on the environment, nutrition and food safety. As Chinese people get 19% of their protein from rice, the main staple food, GE rice must not be allowed to gamble with the safety of the nation.

Other contacts:

Huang Wei, Greenpeace Media Officer
whuang [at] greenpeace.org
+86 (10) 6554 6931 ext. 157

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