The News: China rejects commercialization of genetically-modified (aka genetically-engineered) rice! Wow, not the news I was expecting to run into this week. But, apparently, it’s been a long time coming. “It took seven years, teams of young campaigners and hordes of devoted supporters, but September 2011 the Chinese government finally said it was suspending the commercialisation of genetically-engineered (GE) rice,” Greenpeace writes.
Why this is important: Rice has been around for a looooong time. As Greenpeace writes, “The origins of rice cultivation can be traced to the valleys of China’s Yangtze River, with some estimates putting it at over 7,000 years ago. In that time, rice has become an integral part of Chinese life and culture. It dictates the lives of millions of farmers in the Chinese countryside, feeds over a billion Chinese citizens each year and is synonymous with Chinese cuisine and culture. And Yunnan, in southwestern China is where much of this rice originates from.”
That whole, traditional industry of rice farming has been under threat from monopoly-oriented people who wanted to commercialize GE rice in China.
“For a scientist to have a high level of credibility they need to be separated from approval bodies and industry. But in China, GE scientists are such a close knit gang that the people sitting on approval boards for research money, biosafety boards that approve product safety, the scientists at public research institutes, and those at biotech companies who plan to produce and profit from GE rice are either one and the same, or closely connected,” explains Sze Pang Cheung.
Additionally, as noted many times on here, the safety of such GE crops is still up in the air—who wants to be guinea pigs in a questionable food safety experiment!
Greenpeace to the rescue: Greenpeace received analysis of the intricate links between the Chinese scientists and industry and leaked the info to the press.
“After that story came out the GE rice scientists and experts were inundated with so many calls they appear to have shut their phones down for three months,” says Sze Pang Cheung.
Greenpeace pushed on with a campaign focused around the threat this GE rice posed to China’s food sovereignty.
“Chinese politicians began raising doubts over genetic engineering, followed by a string of Chinese celebrities including Mao Zedong’s daughter, and the father of China’s hybrid rice, Yuan Longping. Several Chinese scholars signed a petition urging caution on GE rice and submitted it to the Parliament.”
“The pressure on the Ministry of Agriculture was so high it was actually forced to announce that no approval of GE rice had been given and that GE rice remains illegal,” says Swiss-born Isabelle Meister, a veteran campaigner who helped to make this happen.
For more on the brilliant campaign, check out the Greenpeace post on this story.
Opportunity for action: Support Greenpeace for the great work it does on this front.
China rice farmer via shutterstock