GE rice in China
13 April 2006
No country in the world has commercially released GE rice. In the US, despite widespread plantings of GE maize (corn) and soy, no commercial GE rice crops have been planted for fear of consumer and market rejection.
Whistle blowers: local farmers
Local farmers tipped off our investigators that GE rice was being sold without government approval several months ago, when Greenpeace conducted its Rice for Life tour there.
Subsequent investigations by our team found samples of rice seed and unmilled and milled rice containing GE strains. We collected evidence from seed companies, agriculture extension stations, farmers, rice millers, wholesalers and retailers. We tested our results with the international laboratory GeneScan, which confirmed the presence of transgenic DNA in 19 samples.
Two of the samples tested positive as Bt rice - a form which has been genetically engineered to produce an inbuilt pesticide. For years, large-scale field trials with Bt rice have been conducted by scientists of the Huazhong Agriculture University in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei.
The area borders dangerously close to what's called the "centre for biodiversity" of rice -- the place where the natural evolution of wild and cultivated rice is at its most active, producing the greatest number of varieties and variations from generation to generation. Any contamination of the wild rice species there could alter natural rice evolution irrevocably and with impacts that may not be understood for generations to come.
Why is this dangerous?
GE insect resistant Bt rice has not been approved for cultivation anywhere in the world. There is no publicly available environmental assessment nor human food safety assessment available for any GE Bt rice. However, studies from other GE Bt crops such as maize and cotton give strong indications that Bt rice will have serious environmental consequences and there are serious human food safety concerns.