Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Greenpeace finds evidence of GM rice contamination in China's emergency grain stores

Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent
The Guardian, 20 July 2010

*China's ban on GM rice questioned as environmental activists discover unapproved transgenic products at two grain sources

China's state grain reserves have been contaminated by illegal, genetically modified rice, according to an investigation by Greenpeace.

The environmental group says it has found tainted samples at two rice processing enterprises that source their products from the strategic food reserve.

It is feared the transgenic products, which have not been approved as safe for public consumption, will spread nationwide because the reserves sell food and distribute emergency supplies during floods, droughts and other disasters.

The affected rice is believed to have originated in Hubei province – a centre of grain production and the site of field tests for strains containing the Bt63 gene, which repels insects.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace activists said they had found batches of genetically modified rice seeds in Hubei and its neighbouring province, Hunan.

They also found illegal GM rice on sale at Wal-Mart and Zhongbai supermarkets.

While several provinces have screened rice supplies for illegal transgenic products, Hubei has been slow to do so.

The group called on the authorities to tighten inspections to staunch the spread of tainted rice.

"The ministry of agriculture have stated many times that China does not permit commercial farming or processing of transgenic rice," said Luo Yuannan, a food campaigner for Greenpeace. "Yet, obviously, Hubei hasn't taken effective measures to block the contamination of paddy fields by illegal transgenic rice."

The national grain reserve and the two processing companies were not available for comment.

China is in a quandary about whether to adopt genetically modified strains of its staple crop. While it is desperate to boost productivity to feed a fast-growing, urbanising population, it also fears the unknown health and biodiversity consequences of adopting transgenic rice on a nationwide scale.

Some environmental activists suspect scientists and biotechnology companies may be deliberating spreading genetically modified rice into seed supplies, paddy fields and supermarkets so they can declare de facto approval of the products.

Friday, July 9, 2010

EPA fines Monsanto $2.5 million for selling mislabeled bags of GMO cotton seeds

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Monsanto Co., the world's biggest seed company, has agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a $2.5 million penalty for selling mislabeled bags of genetically engineered seed.

The EPA says it is the largest fine ever imposed under a law that regulates pesticides and fungicides.

Between 2002 and 2007, Monsanto improperly sold its Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton seeds in 10 Texas counties where the seeds were banned, according to the EPA. The cotton seeds are regulated as pesticides because they kill insects, and the seeds were banned in parts of Texas to avoid growing pest resistance to them. The ban has since been lifted.

Monsanto informed the EPA it was selling seeds in the 10 Texas counties, even though the company was supposed to label the seeds as banned in those areas, the EPA said. Monsanto later changed its cotton seed labels to reflect the ban.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Modified genes found in wild plant, possibly cross between GMOs

Kyodo News International, July 2 2010
TOKYO -- A type of wild Cruciferae [brassica vegetables, of the mustard family or cabbage family] growing near a national highway in Mie Prefecture has been found to have genes of a genetically modified rapeseed, possibly a result of crossing between the wild plants and imported rapeseeds that had fallen during transportation, a survey by a civic group said Friday.

There have been cases of interbreeding between genetically modified rapeseeds and normal rapeseeds for horticultural purposes in the past, the group said, but the latest finding of crossing between the wild plant, whose academic name is Rorippa indica which grows in the Southeast Asia regions including Japan, and the artificially modified ones could be the first case of intercrossing found in the wild in Japan.

''As the possibility that modified genes could spread among wildlife emerged, we are concerned that it could have an impact not only to farming products but also to ecosystems,'' said Masaharu Kawata, a Yokkaichi University lecturer who was involved in the survey.

The group conducted the survey in mid- and late June by collecting 14 samples of cruciferous plants in areas along Route 23 and found 13 of them having genes and proteins of herbicide-resistant rapeseeds developed by chemical manufacturers like Monsanto Co. (NYSE:MON) and Bayer CropScience.

The state compiles a list of species that could interbreed and reviews the possible impact on the ecosystems. It has authorizing power for the use [import?] of such genetically modified plants but the plants in question have not been included in the list, according to the group.

The Environment Ministry's office for alien species management said if the interbreeding is officially confirmed, it will consider adding the plant to the list.