China sells illegal GE rice seeds

Feature Story - 2010-04-15
Greenpeace China has discovered that genetically-engineered (GE) rice seeds are being sold illegally in Hunan and Hubei, China’s largest rice producers. As it is rice planting season now this has massive implications for the safety of Chinese people’s health and the nation’s environment.

GE rice seeds being soaked in preparation for planting.

In a separate investigation, Greenpeace also found food products containing illegal GE rice in four provinces.

It is illegal to commercially grow GE rice in China.

But in March and April, Greenpeace tested several batches of rice seeds and found three of them to contain the Bt gene, which repels insects.

Greenpeace also tested rice and rice noodles in nine provinces and found four provinces -- Guangdong, Fujian, Hubei and Hunan -- illegally contained GE rice.

GE seed recall crucial

That is why it is crucial that local governments immediately act to recall all GE seeds, destroy all GE seedlings that have already been planted, and ensure that no GE seed can enter the seed market and fields again.

Farmers, of course, need to be compensated.

And those responsible for the illegal GE rice must be held accountable.

If these GE seedlings are transplanted and allowed to grow into adult plants they will contaminate other rice fields and the food chain.

"The GE rice seeds will very likely be sown in the coming May. Without immediate action, GE rice might further enter the country's food chain and threaten consumers' health," Wang Weikang, Greenpeace's food and agriculture campaigner told Chinese media.

The seeds were found on sale in Hubei province's Xiantao city and Hunan province's Changde city.

The illegal GE rice seeds have been traced back to the Huazhong Agriculture University.

This University has been developing this strain of GE rice and conducting field trials of GE rice in Hubei for years and was caught in a similar scandal in 2005. [read that story]

Stop GE rice commercialisation

As well as the urgent recall, Greenpeace is urging the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to immediately stop the commercialisation of GE rice.

Last month, Greenpeace revealed that the MOA had all but approved the commercial sale of GE rice but didn't tell the public for over a year. [read that story].

It's also crucial that China now creates a cross-ministry task force to stop GE rice contaminating seeds, fields and the food chain.

It's gone beyond an issue for the MOA.

It's now a health, environmental and commercial issue too.

There is no consensus, even after years of testing, that GE technology is safe for humans, wildlife or the environment.

No other country in the world has approved its staple crop to go GE.

It would be a tragedy if China was to become the first.