A girl carries a fish caught from the rice field.
It appears the Chinese government could start the planting
ofgenetically engineered (GE) rice as early as 2005. What is for
sure isthat the GE industry must be cheering on the Chinese
Government on GErice as this will no doubt encourage the rest of
Asia to go GE.
So why are they taking this risky step, are they tackling a
majorproblem with their domestic rice crops? Not that we can see.
Will itincrease yields? Not if it follows the patterns of current
loweryielding GE crops. Will it endanger the thousands of strains
of non-GErice in China? Certainly.
China is home to rice and still possesses one of the richest
geneticdiversities of rice in the world - boasting some 75,000
strains. Notonly is rice vital to China's food supply but it is
also at the heartof its culture - as with most of Asia. GE rice
threatens all of this.
So it seems ironic that while China develops GE rice, the UN's
Foodand Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is celebrating 2004 as
'TheInternational Year of Rice' and World Food Day under the slogan
that'Rice Is Life'.
except a few GE scientists and government officials, knows that
GErice may reach their rice bowls soon," said Sze Pang Cheung,
CampaignManager of Greenpeace China. "This is scandalous as rice is
the staplediet for most Chinese people and it is the source of
livelihood formore than 100 million farmers."
If GE rice is grown in the field, it will contaminate
localvarieties. Research by Chinese scientists has found that the
pollen ofGE rice may spread as far as 110 meters.
"If rice is life, GE rice is a gamble with our life. Moreover,
GErice can multiply and spread once released into the environment.
It isa gamble with no way back," Sze commented.
To make matters worse, under Chinese regulation, there is
norequirement for the public to be informed and consulted before a
GEcrop is approved for commercialisation. Once an application
reaches theMinistry of Agriculture, the ministry will commission
researchinstitutes to carry out environmental and safety
assessments, whichusually last from three to six months.
GE rice in China would have regional and global impact. It is
widelybelieved that India, the second largest producer and consumer
of rice,and other rice producing countries (Thailand and Vietnam),
may followChina's footsteps if it commercialises GE rice. The GE
industry alsohopes that commercialisation of GE rice will open up
the gate to otherGE crops in Asia, the most important global market
for the GE industry.
The way ahead
During this International Year of Rice the UN has called
upondifferent stakeholders in the world to promote the sustainable
futureof rice. Here at Greenpeace we are taking this very seriously
and havealready organised a cyberaction sending letters to
officials at the FAOto remind them that rice needs to be protected
from GE at all costs -over 5400 letters have been sent.
"The future of rice should stay in the hands of those for whom
riceis life, not a few GE scientists and officials," said Sze. "If
we areto promote the sustainable future of rice farming, GE rice is
simplynot the answer."
as the cyberaction the "The Rice is Life Tour" in Yunnan provinceis
taking place between 16-24 October, which has the richest
diversityof rice in China. For eight days we are travelling the
province withjournalists, rice experts and people concerned about
GE rice fromDenmark, UK, Hong Kong and mainland China. During the
tour we will belooking for the best ways to ensure the sustainable
development of riceand safeguarding cultural traditions in the
heart of one of the world'shomelands of rice.
Rice farmers need to understand that the short-term
productivitygains from new technologies - such as GE - are not
sustainable and havewill have a serious economic and cultural
impact on their lives.
Despite what the biotech cheerleaders say alleviating poverty
andfeeding the world requires more than a technological solution.
GE ricedoes not solve these problems. The environmental release of
artificiallife forms into the environment will lead to inevitable
andirreversible damage, which will in turn undermine food security
andsustainable agriculture in the future.
Find out more:
Check out regular updates from the Yunnan Tour in Chinese
and in English
Learn more about the threat of
GE rice in Asia, tell your friends.
Rice at Risk: Will there be a choice with GE Rice?
Genetically Engineered Rice: Not Sustainable Agriculture