Rice has been grown around the world for over 10,000 years and is cultivated in 113 countries. Rice is also a key ingredient in a wide variety of processed foods ranging from baby food to the more obvious rice noodles. But all this is under threat as genetic engineering (GE) continues to creep up on our most valuable food. Today, GE rice only exists in field trials. But all that could change tomorrow as agri-chemical companies and some governments around the globe are trying to commercialize it.
Ecological farming is the safest solution to the food crisis and looming climate change disasters. Keeping rice GE-free is not just about consumer choice or the environment - it's a lot bigger than that. It's a matter of global food security, human rights and survival.
Stand up for your rice!
Take action now to protect the world's most important food.
The German chemical giant Bayer is trying to sell a herbicide resistant variety of GE rice to countries - for commercial planting .Conventional and organic rice is at great risk from being contaminated by GE strains and controlled by multinational corporations and governments.
The rice made by Bayer (called LL62) has been genetically engineered to withstand high doses of glufosinate, a herbicide sprayed on rice fields to control a wide range of weeds. It's no surprise that Bayer also makes the glufosinate. Any use of the GE rice will boost their chemical sales as a consequence. While this is a nice set up for Bayer shareholders it places farmers, consumers and the environment at risk.
Glufosinate is considered to be so dangerous to humans and the environment that it will soon be banned in Europe in accordance with recently-adopted EU legislation. There is also a high risk that the rice will transfer its new gene to weedy relatives, creating herbicide tolerant superweeds.
The Bayer GE rice has been shown to have a different nutritional composition than its natural counterpart. Our food safety regulator, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), is one of the few regulators in the world to have approved the rice as safe. However this is hardly surprising given that FSANZ has approved every single GE food to pass its desk.
Bayer currently only has food approval for the GE rice in Australia. Whilst this means that the rice could enter the food supply in imported food products, GE rice cannot yet be grown in Australia. However, there is a danger that if GE rice is approved for food use in places such as Europe, Bayer may seek approval to grow GE rice in Australia. Fortunately, to date, the Australian rice industry remains resolutely opposed to GE rice.
Rice traders and producers worldwide reject the GE rice, because of high economic risks. The global rice industry lost some 1.2 billion dollars in 2006, when another GE rice variety from Bayer contaminated global food supplies.
Keeping it real
We are campaigning to keep rice GE-free for the following reasons:
- Genetic engineering is a threat to food security, especially in a changing climate. GE crops repeatedly failed under extreme weather conditions, and some GE plants yield consistently less than their natural counterparts. Earlier this year, GE farmers in South Africa, for example, lost more than 80,000 hectares of corn for unknown reasons. The best insurance policy against climate change and erratic weather conditions is diversity.
- The introduction of GE organisms by choice or by accident grossly undermines sustainable agriculture and in so doing, severely limits the choice of food we can eat.
- There have been over 140 documented cases of GE contamination in the past 10 years. Once GE organisms are released into the environment, GE crops are out of control. If anything goes wrong, if crops fail, human health risks are identified or the environment is harmed, they are impossible to recall.
- GE contamination threatens biodiversity. Biological diversity must be protected and respected as the global heritage of humankind, and one of our world's fundamental keys to survival.
Life is not an industrial commodity