China okays GE rice, doesn’t tell public

Feature Story - 2010-03-26
Greenpeace is still reeling from a shocking fax it was sent yesterday. China has been keeping secret that more than a year ago it essentially approved genetically-engineered rice and corn.

China passed GE corn and GE rice a year ago but didn't tell the public until a year later.

The fax, from the Ministry of Agriculture, confirmed that on 24 December 2008 it led a multi-ministerial meeting passed GE rice and corn.

Yes that's 2008.

For a year, not a peep from the government. The decision is so controversial it looked like they just decided not to say anything.

Such a crucial decision and yet the Chinese public - more than a billion of whom eat rice everyday - has been kept in the dark all this time.

For its full commercialisation, GE rice and GE corn are now only required to pass through seed trials and registrations. There are no further mandatory food and environmental safety studies.

Greenpeace asks for GE rice clarification

The ministry's fax was sent after Greenpeace asked them to clarify the status of GE rice and GE corn.

Greenpeace has released a press statement (read it here) urging the government to immediately stop the commercialisation and to respect the rights of the Chinese public to know about their most important food crop.

"There is no evidence that GE rice is safe and it would be a terrible experiment for China to become the first country in the world to commercialise GE rice."

Professor Jiang Gaoming

"The main decision maker, the Ministry of Agriculture, had hidden this important information from the public for a whole year. All this time, China's 1.3 billion people were kept completely in the dark," Greenpeace Campaigner Lorena Luo said in the statement.

"Rice is our life. Everybody who eats rice must be informed of all potential hazards, and all concerns must be addressed in the decision-making process."

GE rice is risky

There has simply not been enough research on the health risks of GE rice nor how it might damage the environment.

Read our backgrounder on China and GE food here.

While there are plenty of western scientists who oppose GE, there are also many Chinese scientists who are against this potentially dangerous technology.

Professor Jiang Gaoming, an ecologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said, " There is no evidence that GE rice is safe and it would be a terrible experiment for China to become the first country in the world to commercialize GE rice."

Get with Greenpeace

If you think it's shocking that the public were kept in the dark over GE rice, become one of our cyber activists and help Greenpeace campaign for China's environment.