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Greenpeace Wants China to Think Twice About GM Rice
BEIJING - Transgenic rice is a direct threat to China's environment and biodiversity and will not benefit farmers, Greenpeace said on Wednesday, calling on the government to think twice about its commercialisation.

A government committee failed to reach a consensus on the safety of genetically modified rice in November, putting off a decision on what could be the world's first large-scale production of the grain. The committee was meeting again on Wednesday, but an official at the agriculture ministry's genetically modified organisms office said it was routine.

The official said the committee had received applications to approve genetically modified rice, but no decision had been made.

While admitting that modified rice could have short-term benefits like killing certain targeted pests, Greenpeace said the greater risks far outweighed the advantages.

The crops could mutate and become super weeds, requiring extra strong herbicides to control, kill other insects and birds and contaminate different rice species, it said.

"Because of unanswered questions, it's still too early to commercialise on a large scale because it's such an important staple food for Chinese people," said Ma Tianjie, a food and agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace in China.

China has not approved sales of any kind of genetically modified rice.

Greenpeace said a survey they commissioned found almost 80 percent of urban Chinese consumers would choose non-genetically modified rice, and almost every respondent said they wanted mandatory labelling.

In April last year, Greenpeace said it had found that the unapproved transgenic rice was illegally grown on a large scale in Hubei, one of China's top rice-growing provinces, and that the rice was also on sale in the two major cities.

"Most the farmers didn't know the risks involved and didn't even know what genetic engineering was," Ma told the Foreign Correspondents Club.

The announcement prompted worries in China and abroad, which has led Beijing -- one of the world's major rice exporters -- to put a brake on its plan for the world's first large-scale production of the transgenic grain for direct human consumption. (Additional reporting by Niu Shuping)
MGR Archive 30.6.2006
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