Contaminated Chinese rice found in Europe

Health risks require immediate recall and import ban

Feature Story - 2006-09-14
The genetic engineering industry sank to a new low when it was revealed recently that US company Bayer's field trials of genetically engineered (GE) rice had contaminated rice exports. Japan moved fast and banned the US rice from coming into its ports. The EU quickly followed and placed import restrictions and testing regimes in place. Now, Greenpeace research has uncovered a new example of contamination of the world's most important staple food.

Products found to contain illegal and untested genetically engineered rice.

We recently uncovered, and independently verified, that illegal GE rice from China has contaminated food products in France, Germany and the UK. We've notified authorities that the illegal GE rice poses serious health risks and we're calling upon European governments to take immediate action to protect consumers.

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 may only be the tip of the iceberg. Rice products are included in everything from baby food to yoghurt.

"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. Three independent scientists have issued a statement backing the health concerns we raised.

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.

Like Bayer's illegal GE rice in the US, 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.

"Innocent consumers again become the victims," says Tager.  "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," he concluded.

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.

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