Farmer selling GE contaminated rice.
The Chinese government has not authorised GE Rice forcommercial
planting, and has to date permitted only field
testing.Nevertheless, it appears GE Rice is being sold, planted,
consumed, andpossibly exported in China, one of the largest
exporters of Rice. Manyof the markets to which China sends its rice
demand GE-free grain, andthe contamination could negatively impact
China's rice sales,particularly in Japan, Korea, Russia, and the
Nocountry in the world has commercially released GE rice. In the
US,despite widespread plantings of GE maize (corn) and soy, no
commercialGE rice crops have been planted for fear of consumer and
Whistle blowers: local farmers
Localfarmers tipped off our investigators that GE rice was being
soldwithout government approval several months ago, when
Rice for Life tour there.
Subsequentinvestigations by our team found samples of rice seed
and unmilled andmilled rice containing GE strains. We collected
evidence from seedcompanies, agriculture extension stations,
farmers, rice millers,wholesalers and retailers. We tested our
results with the internationallaboratory GeneScan, which confirmed
the presence of transgenic DNA in19 samples.
Two of the samples tested positive as Bt rice - aform which has
been genetically engineered to produce an inbuiltpesticide. For
years, large-scale field trials with Bt rice have beenconducted by
scientists of the Huazhong Agriculture University inWuhan, the
provincial capital of Hubei.
Thearea borders dangerously close to what's called the "centre
forbiodiversity" of rice -- the place where the natural evolution
of wildand cultivated rice is at its most active, producing the
greatestnumber of varieties and variations from generation to
generation. Anycontamination of the wild rice species there could
alter natural riceevolution irrevocably and with impacts that may
not be understood forgenerations to come.
Why is this dangerous?
GEinsect resistant Bt rice has not been approved for cultivation
anywherein the world. There is no publicly available environmental
assessmentnor human food safety assessment available for any GE Bt
rice. However,studies from other GE Bt crops such as maize and
cotton give strongindications that Bt rice will have serious
environmental consequencesand there are serious human food safety
Food safety risks:
- Rice is the most important staple food crop in the world.
- On average, rice provides 30% of calorie and 19% of protein
intake in China.
- One of the toxins produced in Bt rice (and which was found
intwo of the samples) could cause allergenic reactions in humans.
It hasalready been demonstrated to do so in mice.
- The human food safety of Bt GE rice is unknown.
- Non-target species such as butterflies and moths may be
- Weeds could pick up the pesticide production capabilities via
- Insects resistant to the introduced toxin may evolve and
require more intensive chemical control;
- Contamination of natural genetic resources;
- Bt rice could also affect long-term soil health.
Rice is life
Theillegal GE rice scandal comes at a time when the Chinese
government isevaluating the environmental and health safety of
various GE rice linesfor potential commercial approval. The illegal
release of GE rice intothe food chain prior to approval underscores
the weakness of theregulatory system.
Those weaknesses are not limited to China.In March multinational
GE conglomerate Syngenta admitted that theymistakenly sold hundreds
of tonnes of illegal unapproved GE maize inthe United States over
the past four years. Regulators hadn't noticed.Another GE
contamination case in the USA in 2001 resulted in a $1billion
product recall amid concerns of potential allergenic reactionsafter
illegal, GE corn (Starlink) entered the human food chain. And
inMexico in 2002, a centre of biodiversity for maize, testing of
22varieties revealed genetic contamination in 15 of them, despite
agovernment ban on GE planting.
Greenpeace should not have to bemonitoring the GE industry's
compliance with regulations, and the GEindustry is clearly
incapable of regulating itself. The Chinesegovernment shouldn't
have to worry that GE approved for testing isgetting out into the
environment by accident, or that scientists whoare told not to
release unapproved GE strains will do what they aretold. But the
only way to ensure this is to simply keep GE out ofthe country.
We are calling for an urgent, international product recall of
all the GE Rice in China.
"TheGE industry is out of control," says our campaigner Sze
PangCheung. "A small group of rogue scientists have taken the
world'smost important staple food crop into their own hands and are
subjectingthe Chinese public to a totally unacceptable
"We'recalling on the Chinese Government to take urgent action to
recall theunapproved GE rice from the fields and from the food
chain, and toconduct an immediate inquiry into the source of the
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