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NZFSA is called to test Baby Rice

16 March 2006

GE Free NZ has called for the NZFSA to immediately test Heinz Baby Rice products, (use by date 12th March 2007), for an unapproved strain of genetically engineered (GE) Bt rice.

Tests on 19 food samples containing rice, collected by Greenpeace in Beijing
supermarkets, were recently conducted by GeneScan, an independent laboratory
based in Germany.

The GreenPeace tests confirmed that the unapproved GE strain of rice, engineered to contain Bacteria thuriengensis (Bt) genes for insect control, were present, illegally contaminating the Heinz Baby rice food.

"The NZFSA must test Heinz Baby Rice for contamination and immediately
recall product if found." Claire Bleakley of GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment said, "Babies are the most vulnerable sector in our community. Their small bodies are unable to stand up to any toxic challenges to their immune systems without becoming very sick."

Studies have found that the Cry1Ac gene, the active gene in GE Bt pollen grains, provokes a strong immune reaction causing difficulty breathing, skin rashes, and stomach upsets in farmers living next door to GE fields.

Since there have been no approvals for the commercialization or consumption of the Bt Rice, the Chinese government has permitted only field testing to date, it appears that the illegal rice has escaped containment either by human handling error or pollen spread. This puts all rice from China under suspicion of contamination by the unapproved GE Bt strain.

In 2005, multinational GE conglomerate Syngenta admitted that they mistakenly sold hundreds of tonnes of illegal unapproved GE BT10 maize, a large proportion has been exported over the past four years.
"The NZFSA did not test for the Bt10 contaminant despite repeated requests,"
said Claire.

There have been repeated GE contamination events, in the USA in 2001, a $1 billion product recall was issued after concerns of potential allergenic reactions caused by an unapproved GE Bt corn (Starlink) entered the human food chain.

In Mexico in 2002, a centre of biodiversity for maize, testing of 22 varieties revealed genetic contamination in 15 of them, despite a government ban on GE planting.
“ NZFSA must act immediately to test and recall any product if found to be contaminated with the unapproved GE rice”.


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