GENET archive


3-Food: Illegal genetically engineered rice found in Heinz baby food in China

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Illegal genetically engineered rice found in Heinz baby food in
SOURCE: Greenpeace China
DATE:   14 Mar 2006

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Illegal genetically engineered rice found in Heinz baby food in China

Beijing / Hong Kong, International -- Greenpeace has discovered illegal
genetically engineered (GE) rice in a Heinz baby cereal product sold in
Mainland China, the first time worldwide that illegal GE rice
contamination has been detected in baby food.

The same product, manufactured at the same Guangzhou factory, is also
sold in major supermarkets and drug stores in Hong Kong. Greenpeace
demands that Heinz recall the affected batch of products immediately and
prevent the batch from being imported to Hong Kong. Greenpeace also urges
the Hong Kong Government to implement a comprehensive and strict GE food
control and mandatory labelling system now.

Greenpeace commissioned an independent laboratory to test 19 baby food
and snack products sold in Beijing and found that Heinz's product
contained GE rice ingredients.

"This result is truly shocking," said Fung Ka-keung, Greenpeace food and
agriculture campaigner. "This is the first time that illegal GE rice
ingredients have been found in baby food products, a category that should
be subject to the most stringent controls."

Fung explained that babies are very susceptible to food allergies. In a
2002 report, The Royal Society, the independent scientific academy of the
UK, identified babies as being particularly vulnerable to changes in the
nutritional content of their food, and recommended that rigorous tests
are carried out if GE ingredients are one day considered for use in
infant formula. The Bt anti-pest rice found in Heinz's rice cereal
contains proteins (Cry1Ac) that can kill pests. A Mexican scientist's
research in 2000 shows that the protein may trigger an immune response
inside a mouse's body and cause allergies.

"This contamination case should be treated with the utmost seriousness.
We cannot allow our children to be used as guinea pigs," said Fung.

This is the second GE contamination incident that Greenpeace has exposed
within the past few days. On 12th March Greenpeace discovered that the
Hong Kong Government had been distributing GE papaya seedlings to
farmers., GE food is similar in appearance to traditional food. Without a
comprehensive and strict GE food control measures and a mandatory
labelling system, GE ingredients can contaminate the human food chain.
However, the Hong Kong government's Health, Welfare and Food Bureau
continues to ignore the risks and allows GE ingredients to pollute our food.

Responding to a similar GE contamination incident last year, Greenpeace
issued a letter to the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food on 25th
April 2005 asking the Government how they would prevent unsafe GE food
from entering the Hong Kong market. The Bureau replied simply that "the
Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has a food monitoring system"..
No concrete measures were mentioned.

"We have no time to waste. Dr. Chow Yat-ngok must stop ignoring the
threat of GE food to food safety now," concluded Fung, "The Hong Kong
Government should implement strict control and mandatory GE food
labelling systems in accordance with the the Biosafety Protocol, the
first international agreement to regulate the transboundary movements of
GE organisms.."

Contact information
FUNG Ka-keung, Food and agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace China
+852 2854 8324
Azure HO, Media officer, Greenpeace China +852 2854 8326

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Greenpeace finds Heinz Baby Rice Cereal contaminated by illegal
        GE rice
SOURCE: Xinha News, China
DATE:   14 Mar 2006

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Greenpeace finds Heinz Baby Rice Cereal contaminated by illegal GE rice

Greenpeace announced in Beijing today that non-approved genetically-
engineered (GE) rice has been detected in Heinz's Baby Rice Cereal and
the environmental group called for an immediate recall of all the
contaminated products.

It also asked on the government to control the spread of GE rice in the
food chain.

The test results were provided by GeneScan, a Germany-based independent
laboratory, which tested 19 food samples that Greenpeace had collected in
the supermarkets in Beijing.

Heinz Baby Rice Cereal with a best before date of March 12, 2007 is the
only product where GE ingredients, namely Bt rice, were detected.

The GE rice variety is developed to be resistant to pest but has not been
approved by the government.

"We were completely shocked by the result," said Steven Ma, GE campaigner
for Greenpeace China.

"It is the first time we found illegal GE rice in baby food, which should
have been subject to the most rigorous surveillance."

In 2000 Mexican scientists found that the Bt protein (Cry1Ac) which comes
from GE rice has been found to induce allergic responses in mice, Ma said.

On March 1, Greenpeace notified Heinz China of its finding, asking for an
immediate recall of the product and for the company to change its suppliers.

Donald Gadsden, CEO of Heinz China, replied on March 8 that "Heinz will
take any alerts seriously and we are now conducting a thorough inspection."

As of March 14, Heinz had not responded with further information about
its inspection.

                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GM rice not yet approved for commercial production
SOURCE: People's Daily Online, China
DATE:   15 Mar 2006

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GM rice not yet approved for commercial production

In light of the report by Greenpeace International on Mar. 13 that
insect-resistant Bt transgenic rice has been found in Heinz' nutritious
rice flour, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture issued a formal
announcement that China has not yet awarded any safety certificate for GM
rice, nor approved the commercial cultivation of it. The statement
pointed out that Chinese government has always attached great importance
to the safety of genetically modified organisms and implemented safety
assessment and license mechanisms over the GM agricultural produce. All
the GM agricultural produce must be awarded safety certificate of
agricultural GMOs. So far China has not yet issued safety certificate for
GM rice, nor did China approved the commercial cultivation of it.
According to law, the investigation and inspection over GM products in
China must be carried out in line with Chinese technical standard and
criterion, and meanwhile be subject to final test by institutions
entrusted by Ministry of Agriculture. The statement also pointed out that
Ministry of Agriculture has paid close attention to the reaction from
media and general public over the issue of GM rice, and ordered thorough
investigation and examination over the problems of wide concern. The
ministry said that they will punish those involved in the matter
according to law.

                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Heinz Denies GM Baby Products
SOURCE: China Daily, by Zhan Lisheng
DATE:   15 Mar 2006

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Heinz Denies GM Baby Products

GUANGZHOU: Guangzhou-based Heinz (China) Investment Company Ltd yesterday
denied the claim by environmental watchdog Greenpeace on Tuesday that its
baby rice cereal of batch number 20051212 is contaminated with
genetically modified rice.

In a statement released yesterday by Heinz (China) Investment Company Ltd
via Burson-Marsteller, Heinz's PR firm, Heinz China confirmed that no
genetically modified ingredients have ever been detected in all the
recent and past tests by independent international laboratories,
including Hong Kong-based DNA Chips Ltd and SGS's China testing institution.

Heinz has sent the related testing report to the relevant Chinese
authorities and had already advised Greenpeace's Beijing office of the
outcome of its tests' before the latter made the announcement earlier
this week.

Heinz China has turned all the media inquiries over to its PR firm.

According to Zheng Dandan, an executive with Burson-Marsteller's
Guangzhou office, Heinz has always put food safety as a top priority in
every step of the production process, through R&D, quality control,
suppliers' appraisal and product testing. Furthermore the company has a
policy of avoiding genetically modified ingredients in baby foods.

She said that Heinz is always co-operative with the authorities and
abides by all the government's food safety regulations.

But she declined to make comments on Heinz's attitude towards the
possible action on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture to test the
suspected infant foods.

According to a report by Xinhua News Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture
is paying close attention to the issue and will soon test the product.

She also refused to disclose the volume of the suspected infant food, or
whether it is sold outside the mainland.

Heinz's crisis broke out when Greenpeace claimed in Beijing earlier this
week that it happened to find genetically modified ingredients in Heinz's
baby cereals with batch number 20051212, and urged an immediate recall of
all related products.

The product, made by Heinz-UFE Ltd, a joint venture of Heinz in
Guangzhou, is reported to be sold in the mainland as well as in major
supermarkets and drugstores in Hong Kong.

The genetically modified ingredients found are said to have a type of
protein fatal to insects and can cause an immune system reaction in mice.

Greenpeace said the discovery was made when it commissioned GeneScan, an
independent laboratory, to test 19 food and snack products for babies on
the Beijing market.

If it is true, it will be the first time worldwide that illegal
genetically modified rice contamination have been detected in baby food.

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

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

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