Shortly afterwards, Chinese politicians began raising GE doubts, followed by a string of Chinese celebrities including Mao Zedong's daughter and the father of China's hybrid rice, Yuan Longping. Several Chinese scholars signed a petition urging caution on GE rice and submitted it to the annual parliament meeting.
"The pressure on the Ministry of Agriculture was so high they were actually forced to announce that no approval to GE rice had been given and that GE rice remains illegal," says Isabelle gleefully.
The time was ripe for Greenpeace to begin a large-scale anti-GE rice campaign. The team exposed Walmart for selling GE rice and filed a legal case against it. The team beamed a GE shopper's guide to half a million Chinese consumers through mobile and Internet services. Chinese consumers joined the campaign, ringing up companies and demanding they go non-GE.
Greenpeace campaigner Lorena Luo will never forget one reader who was so dedicated she voluntarily checked all her favourite food brands at her local supermarket against Greenpeace's list. The woman then called those red listed and told them that as a consumer she would like them to become non-GE. She showed the kind of persistence to match any Greenpeace campaigner.
GE rice was big news: TV, magazines, newspapers, online media were joining the debate. Isabelle urged her team to get companies to make non-GE pledges. Two huge corporations, Cofco and Yihai Kerry readily obliged and a string of supermarkets also pledged not to use GE ingredients in their own brands and with their fresh unpacked fruits, vegetables and grains.
And then, in September 2011, came the big news we had all been waiting for.
Thanks to our members, activists, mothers, supportive scientists, volunteers and concerned citizens, we took on Goliath and won.
China's major financial weekly, the 'Economic Observer' quoted an information source close to the Ministry of Agriculture saying that China had suspended the commercialization of GE rice. Isabelle says she was so excited that evening she didn't sleep.
Kontau was likewise thrilled. "A couple of years ago I thought there might be a 20-30% chance of this happening. Last year maybe 50%. I really cannot believe we actually did it!"
While the fight is not yet over, we still need the government to reassess its GE investments and focus on sustainable agriculture, there is no doubt that Greenpeace's seven year anti-GE rice campaign has been a success. Thanks to our members, activists, mothers, supportive scientists, volunteers and concerned citizens, we took on Goliath and won.