Future of rice hangs in the balance as Chinese Biosafety Committee meets

Feature Story - 2005-06-22
The Chinese Biosafety Committee, an official advisory group under the Ministry of Agriculture, is meeting in Beijing this week to discuss the possible approval of genetically engineered (GE) rice. We urge the Committee to call for immediate action over the spread of illegal GE rice, and to reconsider commercialisation of GE rice, and regulate the release of GE crops.

Anti-pest genetically engineered (GE) Shanyou 63 rice seeds being soaked (from Songzi Xingnong Company) in preparation for planting in Shangtukuzuiwan, Lijiadian Village, Wulijie Town, Jiangxia District, Wuhan.

China is considering commercialisation of GE rice and officials have indicated a decision may be made this year. As the major official advisory group over this issue, the Committee's recommendations will play an important role in the final decision-making process. If approved, it will be the first time that a country allows their staple food crop to be genetically engineered, raising serious concerns about long term food safety.

There is a growing national and international turmoil over the illegal spread of untested GE rice from field trials in Hubei province. Last week, we reported the discovery of illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice in Guangzhou, the largest city in Southern China, raising fears that the untested GE rice is spreading out of control and has entered into the food chain in major Chinese cities. There are strong warning signs that this GE Bt rice could cause allergenic reactions.

Xudong Grain Market in Wuhan - one of the grain markets in Hubei where Greenpeace found Genetically Engineered (GE) rice being traded.

We also call on the Committee to increase transparency and public participation, after China ratified the Cartegena Biosafety Protocol in May. Once China's ratification enters into force, traders will have to fully inform and secure approvals before exporting GM crops to and from China.