Greenpeace hails Thai-Vietnam non-GE rice agreement

Press release - November 27, 2006
Greenpeace today hailed an agreement between rice traders from Thailand and Vietnam, respectively the world's first and second largest exporters of rice, to shun genetically engineered (GE) rice. The agreement comes in the wake of scandals involving illegal GE-contaminated rice in the US and China.

The agreement should pave the way for both countries to boost their rice exports as the EU has closed its doors to GE-contaminated US rice.

"This is a victory for farmers and environment in the region. However, the threat of GE rice contamination still looms large across the region. Both Thailand and Vietnam must as well as other countries in Southeast Asia where rice is the major staple must establish very strict inspection regimes to stop GE-contaminated rice from entering their borders and ban all types of open-field GE rice experiments to avoid GE-contamination," said Patwajee Srisuwan of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Last week, a historic meeting between the powerful Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association resulted in the joint announcement of a non-GE rice production policy. More than 30 of the largest rice producers and traders in Thailand and Vietnam were present to endorse the agreement.

"Thailand has shown the world that it can lead in rice production without GE rice. As a key agricultural producer, Thailand stands to benefit more if it stops all open-field GE crop trials and declares a GE-free policy once and for all," said Patwajee.

Recently, a series of rice contamination scandals were uncovered around the world. The company responsible for the global contamination is Germany's Bayer, which ended field trials of GE rice LL601 in the US five years ago. However, LL601 rice escaped the field

trials and has now contaminated an unknown number of conventional ricefields across the US. GE rice contamination were found in rice products all over Europe and Japan. Chinese rice exports to the EU were also found to be contaminated by illegal genetically-engineered Bt63 rice.

As a result of GE-rice contamination, the global food industry is now facing massive costs including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts.