March 16th, 2010 | China Daily GM rice already on shelves: Greenpeace
Genetically modified (GM) rice has been found on sale in China, according to a recent survey conducted by Greenpeace China. The survey contradicts previous announcements by top agriculture authorities that the country had so far neither approved commercial cultivation nor importation of GM grain.
The transgenic rice marketed under the brands of Maoya and Xueyou were detected in Wal-Mart of Hunan province and Zhongbai supermarket in Hunan, according to the survey released Monday.
“The DNA transgenic fragments were found in rice sold at both supermarkets. The Maoya sample is, as tests showed, a pest-resistant BT variety,” Wang Weikang, spokesperson of Greenpeace’s food and agriculture program said on Monday, adding that they had submitted the report to the Ministry of Agriculture.
“The practice (of selling GM rice) is against the law and might pose negative effects to consumers’ health,” she noted, urging authorities to address the issue.
Officials discounted the survey’s validity.
“I don’t think their survey is trustworthy but the ministry is open to such inquiry on the precondition that it’s based on sound scientific data,” said Huang Dafang, a member of the bio-safety committee affiliated with the ministry. “China has laws and designated establishments to oversee and regulate GM food and we’ve never heard of such a case from these sources,” he told China Daily.
He also conceded that testing and tracking of GM food should be further improved given the increasing presence of GM food in the consumer market.
The survey conducted in November in nine supermarkets in eight cities, including Beijing, Wuhan, and Changsha, is actually the second of its kind done by the group in China.
In 2005, Greenpeace leaders said the organization had found unapproved transgenic rice being illegally grown on a large scale in Hubei, one of China’s top rice-cultivating provinces, and that the rice was also on sale there.
“The government just punished the companies involved without confirming our survey results,” recalled Fang Lifeng, spokesman for Greenpeace China’s GM program.
Farmers in Hubei were given access to some GM rice seeds at the time. The local government recalled the seeds immediately after the incident was reported, according to Fang.
“But now we are not sure if the GM rice found is related to the leaking of the GM rice seeds into the consumer markets around 2005,” he said.
He added that unlike the 2005 survey, the test was done by an independent laboratory approved by local authorities, which refused to be named.
Also, some of the vegetables and fruits sampled, including the cowpea, cucumber, and strawberry, were found with high levels of pesticide residues, some that even had been banned by the government for use on plants, the survey also found.
Earlier this month, Chen Xiwen, a senior rural official, said GM foods still have a long way to go before they reach the Chinese market, even though the Ministry of Agriculture has certificated two strains of GM rice.
The products need to be certified by health and inspection sectors, he added.
By Shan Juan