The Global Status of Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops: 10 years of continuing rejection

Press release - January 19, 2007
A summary of ‘Global reaction against genetic engineering in 2006’, released by Greenpeace today, provides solid evidence that resistance to genetically engineered crops continues to grow, amongst farmers, consumers and governments. The Greenpeace summary was released just hours before the expected release of an annual report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a think-tank supported largely by the agrochemical industry

"There is irrefutable evidence (1) that governments, farmers and consumers throughout the world recognise that GE is unreliable, unviable or downright dangerous," said Patwajee Srisuwan, GE campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, "Market reaction to the recent rice contamination scandal was of near epidemic proportions; some countries are banning GE altogether. Romania, for instance, which had 85,000 hectares planted with GE soy in 2005, will drop to zero this year, in keeping with the new government policy banning the cultivation of GE soy."

The most significant demonstration of GE rejection was the rapid, widespread aftermath of Bayer's LLRICE601 contamination scandal. In August 2006, the US government announced that significant amounts of US long grain rice were found to be contaminated with an unapproved genetically engineered variety, LLRICE601; the news elicited strong reactions from rice farmers and processors, as well as governments worldwide:

The Rice Producers of California and a major rice mill in the state, Sunwest Foods, have called for a ban on any cultivation of GE rice (including field trials) in California.

Large sectors of the rice industry, including Ebro Puleva, the world's largest rice processor, committed to being GE-free.

Rice traders of two of the largest rice exporting countries, Thailand and Vietnam, have signed an agreement that commits them to being GE-free, capitalizing on new market opportunities that have opened up as a result of the contamination of US rice supplies with Bayer's GE rice.

The Chinese Biosafety Committee once again requested further data and assessment on the safety of GE rice, thereby again delaying a decision about commercial approval, even though the varieties have been under active consideration by the committee for over two years.  

The All India Rice Exporters' Association formally requested that the Indian government prohibit field trials of GE rice in basmati rice-growing states. Rice farmers in India burnt down GE-rice test plots that could potentially contaminate their own fields.

Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson for the Bharathiya Kisan Union, (BKU) one of the largest farmers' groups in India, was straightforward in his condemnation of GE, saying, "The threat to farmers' livelihoods in India is clear.  Examples from across the country of Bt cotton failures show that this technology is unsafe for humans and the environment, and that it can neither be controlled nor regulated. We consider the threat serious enough to warrant the destruction of test fields of GE rice to stop its introduction and protect ourselves."

Chip Struckmeyer, a rice farmer from California, agreed, "US rice producers took a big hit financially when rice was found to be contaminated with unapproved varieties. It's clear our customers don't want genetically engineered rice. Why on earth would we plant it?"

"ISAAA might claim that genetic engineering has been a success, with consistent increases in global acreage.  But the global reaction to the Bayer rice contamination scandal of 2006 provides a sharp contrast to the rosy picture they're painting.  It is overwhelmingly clear that the GE industry will not be able to convince consumers to eat GE rice, wheat, aubergine, or anything else. With governments unwilling to allow it, farmers unwilling to grow it and consumers unwilling to buy it, it is amply clear that genetic engineering has no place in our future," concluded Patwajee.

Other contacts: Pornnapa Wongakanit, Media Campaigner, Tel. 081-613-9755

Notes: See ‘Global reaction against Genetic Engineering in 2006’ (www.greenpeace.org