Greenpeace: Quarantine US rice shipment until proven GMO-free

Feature story - February 28, 2008
Greenpeace warned Philippine authorities that a shipment of rice from the USA, currently being offloaded at Subic port, may be contaminated with genetically modified rice which is illegal under Philippine laws. Greenpeace activists on rubber inflatables hung a banner stating "GMO RICE RISK" on the hull of MV Liberty Eagle, the container ship that is unloading about 44,000 metric tonnes of the suspect rice.

Greenpeace activists on inflatable rubber rafts hang a banner stating "GMO RICE RISK" on the hull of MV Liberty Eagle February 2.2008 at a Subic Bay pier in Olongapo City, Zambales northeast of Manila, Philippines. Greenpeace warned Philippine authorities that the shipment of rice from the USA may be contaminated with genetically modified rice which is illegal under Philippine laws.

Greenpeace activists on inflatable rubber rafts hang a banner stating "GMO RICE RISK" on the hull of MV Liberty Eagle February 2.2008 at a Subic Bay pier in Olongapo City, Zambales northeast of Manila, Philippines. Greenpeace warned Philippine authorities that the shipment of rice from the USA may be contaminated with genetically modified rice which is illegal under Philippine laws.

Greenpeace activists on inflatable rubber rafts hang a banner stating "GMO RICE RISK" on the hull of MV Liberty Eagle February 2.2008 at a Subic Bay pier in Olongapo City, Zambales northeast of Manila, Philippines. Greenpeace warned Philippine authorities that the shipment of rice from the USA may be contaminated with genetically modified rice which is illegal under Philippine laws.

"The NFA must quarantine this shipment and run stringent tests based on EU protocols before the rice is distributed to the public. The US and Philippine GMO testing procedures are grossly inadequate," said Daniel M. Ocampo, Genetic Engineering Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "GMO rice has not been proven safe for human consumption and should never be allowed in the country."

The NFA and US testing procedures require a GMO test sample of 100 grams out of 50,000 tons. That means about one grain out of every 500 million grains is tested. In contrast, the EU requires a minimum of 2.5 kilogram sample for testing, making it easier to detect the presence of GMO grains.

From 2007 to 2008, twenty three US rice shipments cleared by American authorities were barred in the EU for GMO contamination. In 2006, Greenpeace also revealed the presence of GMO-contaminated rice from the US (Bayer's herbicide resistant LL601 rice) in supermarkets in Manila.  This prompted the NFA to issue an order requiring imported rice to be free from GMOs and has stopped the importation of rice from the US since late 2006.  Purefeeds, the distributor of American GMO-contaminated rice, had to recall the remaining stocks from store shelves and replaced it with rice from Thailand.

Bayer, the developer of GMO rice varieties that contaminated the US rice supply is facing lawsuits from farmers and US rice traders whose combined losses are estimated at around US$ 1.2 billion.  The adverse impacts of GMO rice contamination in the US still lingers in many countries around the world including the Philippines.

"Rice is the most important food for Filipinos. Importing rice from the US exposes Filipinos to the inherent risks of GMOs on human health and threatens our staple food with genetic contamination.  The NFA should stop the distribution of this rice from the US unless they can prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is indeed free from GMOs," Ocampo said.

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