Illegal genetically engineered Chinese rice discovered in Europe

Health risks require immediate recall and import ban

Press release - 5 September, 2006
Greenpeace International released findings today that show illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice from China has contaminated food products in France, Germany and the UK. Greenpeace International has notified authorities that the illegal GE rice poses serious health risks and calls upon European governments to take immediate action to protect consumers.

Products found to contain illegal and untested genetically engineered rice.

Greenpeace offices and Friends of the Earth in the UK tested samples of rice products such as vermicelli, rice sticks and other processed foods. Five positive samples were found containing an illegal GE organism not approved anywhere in the world. However this could be the tip of the iceberg with rice products included in everything from baby food to yoghurt. (1)

"These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses", said Jeremy Tager, GE rice campaigner, Greenpeace International. "Consumers should not be left swallowing experimental GE rice that is risky to their health."

The illegal GE rice, genetically engineered to be resistant to insects, contains a protein or fused protein (Cry1Ac) that has reportedly induced allergic-like reactions in mice (2). Three independent scientists with expertise in the field of GE and health have issued a statement backing the health concerns raised by Greenpeace International. (3)

Greenpeace International is calling for immediate worldwide recall, measures to ensure no further contaminated rice enters the EU and the urgent implementation of a preventative screening system for countries with high contamination risks. Demanding GE free certification for food from countries that grow and produce GE crops is reasonable, cost effective, and necessary to protect Europe's consumers.

This recent rice contamination in China began with field trials; the rice is not currently approved for commercial growing because of mounting concerns over its safety. Yet an investigation by Greenpeace in 2005 showed that research institutes and seed companies in China had been illegally selling unapproved GE rice seeds to farmers. (4)

"Innocent consumers again become the victims of the GE industry's 'contamination first' strategy", says Tager.  "A group of rogue scientists pushing for the approval of GE rice in China, leaked the illegal seeds to the market and have created major genetic contamination", said Tager. Just two weeks ago, the US commercial rice supply was contaminated with an illegal GE rice developed by Bayer. The contamination is believed to be rife - despite the fact that the rice never moved beyond open field trials.  Already two ships have been detained and the EU and Japan have imposed testing and certification requirements on US rice.  "Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place," concluded Tager.

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.

VVPR info: Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE rice campaigner +31 6 4622 1185Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324Images are available of the contaminated rice productsContact the Greenpeace International picture desk +31 20 718 2058

Notes: (1) All tests were conducted by an accredited and independent laboratory. Details available in background briefing 'Illegal experimental GE Rice from China: Now entering Europe's Food chain.' (2) Moreno-Fierros, al. (2000). Intranasal, rectal and intraperitoneal immunization with protoxin Cry1Ac from Bacillus thuringiensis induces compartmentalized serum, intestinal, vaginal and pulmonary immune responses in Balb/c mice. Microbes Infect 2(8): 885-90(3) Scientists' statement from Pr. Ian F.Pryme, Dept. of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway. Pr. Gilles-Eric Séralini, Président du Conseil Scientifique, du CRII GEN, Université de Caen, France. Dr. Christian Velot, Conseil Scientifique du CRII GEN, Institut de Génétique et, Microbiologie, Université Paris-Sud, France.(4) Further testing indicated that the whole food chain had been contaminated, with the most recent case being the contaminated Heinz rice cereal products in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hongkong. The Chinese government, in the wake of the situation, reportedly punished seed companies and destroyed illegally grown GE rice.