lllegal GM Rice "Unsafe" say FSA (27/3/2008)

1.lllegal GM Rice 'Unsafe' say FSA

2.Big funding for GM research in China?

EXTRACT: 'This case provides another warming about how easy it is to contaminate food with GM and how difficult it is to clean up the mess afterwards. Businesses affected by this incident should be compensated as soon as possible, and the EU should seek recompense from the Chinese Government.' (item 1)

NOTE: The claims of big new funds for GM research in China (item 2) need to be treated with caution given their source - a media event by ISAAA, the biotech industry backed hype-machine for global GM crop uptake. But, if there is any truth in these claims, China better beware the economic consequences, given that the illegal rice causing so much concern (item 1) was only ever given permission for use in GM crop trials but has made all imports of Chinese rice and rice products potentially unsafe.


1.lllegal GM Rice 'Unsafe' say FSA
GM Freeze, 27 March 2008

Rice products imported from China contaminated with the unapproved and illegal GM trait Bt63 have been confirmed as 'unsafe' by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In a letter to food regulators and the food industry sent on 26 March, the FSA state:

'The Agency takes the view that the unauthorised GM material is 'unsafe' as defined in Article 14 of Regulation (EC)178/2002 and that food business operators should inform enforcement authorities if such rice has left their possession, initiate procedures under Article 19 of Regulation (EC) 178/2002 to withdraw it and to recall it if has reached consumers.'

The EC regulations define food as 'unsafe' if it is a) injurious to health or b) unfit for human consumption.

Bt63 was developed at the Huazhong Agricultural University in China and has not been approved anywhere in the world for commercial growing. Concerns have been expressed that the GM protein in Bt63 rice could cause allergic reactions, but the European Food Safety Authority has been unable to assess its food safety risk because of lack of data on the GM crop. The FSA will issue a Food Alert on Bt63 shortly.

Bt63 genes have been detected in foodstuffs in China and Europe since 2005. The illegal GM genes were found in a number of speciality rice products (such as rice sticks and noodles) in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden in September 2006. In 2007 the UK imported nearly 1,000 tonnes of these rice-based pasta products from China.[1]

In February the EU issued an Emergency Decision, which comes into force on 15 April, to prevent further import and distribution of rice and rice products contaminated with Bt63. Any presence of Bt63 would mean it would be illegal to market the products in question.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

'We welcome the moves to remove products contaminated with Bt63 rice from the market, but why has it taken so long? The EU and FSA have been aware of the contamination in Europe for 18 months, and now they tell us the GM rice is 'unsafe'. Why the delay? We have no idea how many people might have been exposed to contaminated products. We are concerned that immune system or allergic reactions could occur in people eating them. The EU seems to have been too reliant on the Chinese authorities to deal with the contamination, but they have failed to do so. This case provides another warming about how easy it is to contaminate food with GM and how difficult it is to clean up the mess afterwards. Businesses affected by this incident should be compensated as soon as possible, and the EU should seek recompense from the Chinese Government.'


Calls to:
Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065

1. See GM Freeze/Friends of the Earth briefing www.gmfreeze.org/uploads/GM_Rice_Contam_final_edit.pdf


2.Big funding for GM research
Hepeng Jia/Beijing, China
Chemistry World, 26 March 2008

China is to launch a huge research programme on genetically modified (GM) crops by the end of the year, according to top agricultural biotechnology advisors.

Huang Dafang, former director of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences' (CAAS) Institute of Biotechnologies, says the programme could receive as much as 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) over the next five years - five times more than the country spent on GM research in the preceding five years.

A member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's upper house, and a key government advisor on biotechnology policies, Huang revealed the news at a briefing on the annual report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit organisation promoting agricultural biotechnology.

The ISAAA report indicates in 2007 a total of 114.3 million hectares of GM crops were cultivated worldwide - an increase of 18.3 per cent from 2006.

The most widely adopted GM crop is Bt cotton, engineered to produce a toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to fight bollworm. China has developed GM petunias, tomatoes, sweet peppers, poplar and papaya, and several varieties of rice but to date policymakers have only allowed GM cotton to be marketed.

Huang says that yield, quality, nutritional value and drought resistance will be major targets of the new research programme. As well as rice and cotton - which have been the focus of GM technology research in the past - corn and wheat will also now be priority crops for research.

Receptive farmers

Hu Jifa is chief research fellow at the the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP), China's chief think tank on food policy issues.

He confirms the programme is set to go ahead and says that funding for research on safety and environmental monitoring will be included in the programme.

The GM seeding programme was mentioned in China's 11th Five-year science and technology development plan (2006-2010) but decisions on the funding and scope of the programme have been delayed for two years due to the sensitivity of the area, Hu says.

But policymakers are now more receptive to GM technologies, says Hu, and that could lead to more GM crops getting the go-ahead for commercialisation.

Judy Wang of Croplife China, an organisation representing agricultural biotech firms, welcomes the news, and says that the research programme could help make GM crops more acceptable to Chinese farmers.

Liu Xuehua, an associate professor of environment planning at Tsinghua University, says that while she is not opposed to GM technologies, policymaking in the area should be more cautious and transparent.

'Stakeholders, rather than scientists alone, should be involved in the policy-making process concerning GM commercialisation so that more potential risks can be identified,' Liu says. 'The decision to commercialise them should not be based simply on the fact that there is now big government funding for the area,' she adds.

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