1.Illegal GMO rice spreads across China - REUTERS
2.Signs of altered rice around China - NEW YORK TIMES
3.Genetically modified rice spreads to S. China - SOUTH CHINA POST
"We are now facing the contamination of the most important staple crop in the whole world."
1.Illegal GMO rice spreads across China - Greenpeace
13 Jun 2005 09:08:44 GMT
BEIJING, June 13 (Reuters) - The discovery of genetically modified rice being illegally sold in a booming southern Chinese city shows the grain is spreading across China and could enter markets overseas, Greenpeace said on Monday.
The environmental group said genetically engineered rice had been found at grain wholesalers in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, even though such rice had not gone through safety testing or been approved by the Chinese government.
Greenpeace in April announced it had found genetically engineered rice at markets in central Hubei province.
"We are sure that people are consuming it unknowingly," Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said at a news conference in Beijing, referring to rice that had been modified to contain the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces a toxin that kills pest.
"We are now facing the contamination of the most important staple crop in the whole world," Sze said.
Pressure to launch GMO rice in China comes at a time when the country is facing a tough task in raising urban grain output and narrowing the income gap between farmers and urban citizens.
Proponents of genetically modified crops say they will improve yield and reduce plants' vulnerability to pests. Opponents say pests will develop greater resistance to the modified crops, and that the techniques undermine biodiversity and could prove dangerous for human consumption.
China, the world's largest producer and consumer of rice, is testing several strains of genetically modified rice and is expected to grant approval for the commercialisation of such rice as early as this year.
China, one of the world's largest importers of GMO crops, said last month it had ratified a U.N. treaty that aims for more transparency and control over trade in genetically modified foods.
"China is sending a strong message to the world that it is no dumping ground for GM crops," Sze said at the time.
Chinese genetically engineered rice may have already made its way into exports of rice or rice-based products, Sze said on Monday.
But he acknowledged Greenpeace had no direct evidence of Bt rice leaving China.
Greenpeace estimated that up to 29 tonnes of genetically modified Bt rice seeds, capable of producing as much as 14,500 tonnes of rice, were illegally sold in Hubei this year.
"We think it is unacceptable and irresponsible that they are not taking this issue seriously because rice is the most important staple in China," Sze said.
The group called on the government to ban planting and sales of genetically engineered rice, recall and destroy all modified seeds on the market and punish people involved.
2.Signs of altered rice around China
By David Barboza
The New York Times, JUNE 14, 2005
SHANGHAI Genetically altered rice, which has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world, has been found in the food supply in one of China's biggest cities, Greenpeace charged on Monday.
Researchers for the environmentalist group said bags of rice that were purchased in April and May in Guangzhou had been tested by an independent laboratory and found to contain genetically altered rice, which it is illegal to sell on the open market in China.
The findings suggested that China may have inadvertently become the first country where humans are consuming genetically modified rice even though safety testing has not yet been completed.
Two months ago, the Ministry of Agriculture said it would investigate charges by Greenpeace that genetically altered rice was being illegally planted and sold in Hubei Province, which contains one of China's biggest rice-growing regions.
The ministry's findings have not been released.
Now Greenpeace says that rice that has been genetically altered to resist pests has spread from experimental plots in Hubei to wholesale rice markets in Guangzhou, a city of seven million people that is 145 kilometers, or 90 miles, north of Hong Kong.
"This illegal and unapproved rice has spread out of Hubei Province, and it is reaching other parts of the country," said Sze Pang Cheung, a Greenpeace researcher in Beijing.
Sze said Greenpeace had purchased the rice from a wholesaler in Guangzhou who buys from Hubei and then resells about 60 tons of rice a day, much of it to restaurants or food shops in Guangzhou.
Greenpeace - which has strongly opposed the use of genetically altered crops, citing health and safety concerns - said its findings had been confirmed by Genescan, an independent testing laboratory in Germany.
Scientists around the world continue to debate the use of genetically altered crops, but there has been little or no evidence so far that genetically altered crops are harmful to human health.
In the United States, the planting of genetically altered corn and soybeans is widespread. But since the late 1990s, European and U.S. regulators have slowed the approval process because of health and safety concerns, as well as consumer fears.
In China, the government has also been reluctant to approve the sale of genetically altered food crops because of safety and health concerns.
But in recent years, Beijing has approved the use of experimental plots to test whether genetically altered crops could help farmers by improving yields or reducing pesticide use.
In April, Greenpeace said a group of "rogue scientists" in Hubei Province had allowed genetically altered rice to seep into a corner of the food market by illegally selling it to farmers.
A journalist who went to Hubei Province a day after the Greenpeace announcement was still able to purchase bags labeled as "anti-pest" rice from local farmers and even from a government-owned seed market.
Those bags of rice were later tested with a home testing kit from Envirologix, an American company. That rice was said to have tested positive for a strain of altered genes, while tests on rice purchased at a food market in Shanghai were negative.
3.Genetically modified rice spreads to S. China
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-13 22:27
Greenpeace China claimed yesterday that the illegal sale of genetically modified (GM) rice seed has spread to southern China.
The group now fears the rice, only supposed to be planted in closely controlled scientific trials, could have spread across the country.
Ministry of Agriculture officials declined to comment on the situation yesterday.
Greenpeace's food and agriculture campaign manager Sze Pang Cheung said samples taken at a wholesale market in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, in April, included GM rice seed originating from Hubei Province, Central China.
German testing company Genescan analysed the samples. Tests revealed samples sold by a wholesaler in the Haizhu market for food and edible oil were genetically modified.
The wholesaler, who shifts about 60 tons of rice a day, also sells rice to buyers from other Guangdong cities such as Zhongshan and Shunde, Sze said.
"This shows illegal genetically modified rice in Hubei has spread out of the province. ... And since (it) has come to Guangzhou, it is possible that cities in other provinces have genetically modified rice in their markets as well," Sze added.
Xue Dayuan, a biosafety researcher with the State Environmental Protection Administration's Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, said: "It is irresponsible for genetically modified rice to be sold, given that it is unclear whether it can lead to health or environmental problems."
But Zhu Zhen, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Genetics and the Development of Biology, said concerns over the negative impact of GM rice on human health and environment are "not necessary" because the techniques involved are very advanced.
The discovery of GM rice in Guangzhou follows Greenpeace's mid-April announcement that it had found GM rice seed being sold and planted in Hubei.
Greenpeace's Sze said it was very likely GM rice seed sold in Hubei came from Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, the provincial capital, which is researching GM rice.
Seed found to be modified was labelled "Kangchong Shanyou 63", exactly the type that the university has been experimenting with, Sze said.
He added it is also likely that the university has formed a network for producing and selling the rice seed, including the Huihua Sannong company, a seed production and sales company funded by the university in partnership with a Hong Kong firm.
But Wu Zhonghua, an employee of the company, said it is not selling any seed, let alone GM seed, because the operation was set up only three months ago and has yet to start production.
Based on its recent investigations, Greenpeace estimates that 23,500 to 29,000 kilograms of GM rice seed have been sold in Hubei this year.
If no steps are taken to combat the problem, GM rice crops could total 1,566 to 1,933 hectares, producing up to 14,500 tons of GM rice.
Currently China does not permit the sale of GM rice because experiments are still being carried out by universities and research institutes.
In April, after Greenpeace's announcement, the Ministry of Agriculture said that it would look into the issue based on reports from Hubei's agricultural authority.
Breaking news - Illegal GMO rice spreads across China
1.Illegal GMO rice spreads across China - REUTERS