InfoShop News, September 12, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Illegal genetically-modified rice was recently discovered contaminating conventional rice in Europe and China. The contaminating gene may cause allergic reactions in some humans. Greenpeace warns that rice in the Philippines is in danger of similar genetic contamination unless precautionary action is taken.]

At a press conference in Quezon City, Philippines, Greenpeace International has revealed new information about the spread of genetic contamination of the world's rice crops.

In recent weeks, illegal genetically-modified rice has been found contaminating conventional rice in Germany, France, England and China. Now scientists are expressing concern that the contaminating gene may cause allergic reactions in some humans. Rice is a staple crop for half of humanity -- some 3 billion people -- so very large numbers of people could be exposed to a potential allergen if steps are not taken to curb the spread of the rogue gene.

Recent Greenpeace tests reveal that illegal GE rice from the US has contaminated products on supermarket shelves in Germany. The results came a week after an earlier round of tests proved that illegal GE rice from China, which poses a potential health risk, was found present in rice products on European shelves(1). Greenpeace International has notified authorities that illegal GE rice poses health and environmental risks and called upon governments to take immediate action to protect consumers.

"The illegal GE rice scandal, however, may not be limited to Europe. In Southeast Asia rice is the staple diet. The Philippines is among the countries most at risk because we import rice and rice products from both the US and China," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

"Greenpeace is therefore calling on the government to protect Filipino consumers by implementing strong measures to nip in the bud what may turn out to be a similar case of serious contamination in our country. These measures should include testing of rice and rice products, the immediate recall of those found positive for contamination, and demanding GE free certification for food from countries that grow and produce GE crops," Ocampo added.

Many US and Chinese rice products which are available in Philippine markets and supermarket shelves may be affected by contamination. These products can range from rice noodles to breakfast cereals to baby food. The country also imports sacks of rice from US and China, and receives several tons of US surplus rice regularly under a food aid program, PL-480.

The recent rice contamination in China began with field trials of GE rice not currently approved for commercial growing because of mounting concerns over its safety. 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 with expertise in the field of GE and health have issued a statement backing the health concerns raised by Greenpeace International(2). 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(3). Processed rice products found in supermarkets in France, UK and Germany were revealed last week to have been contaminated with China's illegal GE rice.

New test results by an independent laboratory released in a statement yesterday by Greenpeace Germany have also confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in US parboiled long grain rice sold in a major German supermarket chain which has 700 outlets throughout France. Bayer's LL GE rice is not approved for food or cultivation anywhere in the world except within the United States and Canada. In addition, an experimental variety of LL GE rice, LL601, was found recently to be contaminating US rice.

"These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses. Consumers should not be left swallowing experimental GE rice that is risky to their health and the environment," said Dr. Janet Cotter from Greenpeace International's Science Unit. "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 and stop any plans to commercialize GE rice."

Ocampo concluded: "The Philippines, which is signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety should moreover use the precautionary principle by not importing GMO rice and rice products. The country should also stop planting GMO rice, even in experimental plots, so that contamination is halted at all levels."

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.

Notes to Editor

(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) Scientists statement from Pr. Ian F.Pryme, Dept. of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway. Pr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, President du Conseil Scientifique, du CRII GEN, Universite de Caen, France. Dr. Christian Velot, Conseil Scientifique du CRII GEN, Institut de Genetique et, Microbiologie, Universite Paris-Sud, France.

(3) 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.

Copyright 2006 Infoshop News