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Genetically modified rice spreads
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-13 22:27

Greenpeace China claimed yesterday that the illegal sale of genetically modified (GM) rice seed has spread to southern China.

The group now fears the rice, only supposed to be planted in closely controlled scientific trials, could have spread across the country.

Ministry of Agriculture officials declined to comment on the situation yesterday.

Greenpeace's food and agriculture campaign manager Sze Pang Cheung said samples taken at a wholesale market in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, in April, included GM rice seed originating from Hubei Province, Central China.

German testing company Genescan analysed the samples. Tests revealed samples sold by a wholesaler in the Haizhu market for food and edible oil were genetically modified.

The wholesaler, who shifts about 60 tons of rice a day, also sells rice to buyers from other Guangdong cities such as Zhongshan and Shunde, Sze said.

"This shows illegal genetically modified rice in Hubei has spread out of the province. ... And since (it) has come to Guangzhou, it is possible that cities in other provinces have genetically modified rice in their markets as well," Sze added.

Xue Dayuan, a biosafety researcher with the State Environmental Protection Administration's Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, said: "It is irresponsible for genetically modified rice to be sold, given that it is unclear whether it can lead to health or environmental problems."

The discovery of GM rice in Guangzhou follows Greenpeace's mid-April announcement that it had found GM rice seed being sold and planted in Hubei.

Greenpeace's Sze said it was very likely GM rice seed sold in Hubei came from Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, the provincial capital, which is researching GM rice.

Seed found to be modified was labelled "Kangchong Shanyou 63", exactly the type that the university has been experimenting with, Sze said.

He added it is also likely that the university has formed a network for producing and selling the rice seed, probably involving the Huihua Sannong company, a seed production and sales company funded by the university in partnership with a Hong Kong firm.

But Wu Zhonghua, an employee of the company, said it is not selling any seed, let alone GM seed.

Based on its recent investigations, Greenpeace estimates that 23,500 to 29,000 kilograms of GM rice seed have been sold in Hubei this year.

If no steps are taken to combat the problem, GM rice crops could total 1,566 to 1,933 hectares, producing up to 14,500 tons of GM rice.

(China Daily 06/14/2005 page1)

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