16/04/2018

International Stand against FSANZ Approval of ‘Golden Rice’

 

“The Stop Golden Rice! International Campaign Conference, 2018” was held in the Philippines. The Stop Golden Rice! Network is an alliance of more than 30 organizations from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia with allies from China, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Delegates from health, subsistence and organic farmers, scientists, artists, consumers, women and children rights gathered to echo their united stand to resist the adoption of GMOs and Golden Rice.[1]

“We have long asserted that we don’t need GMOs which are intertwined with the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. We have our own traditional rice varieties and sustainable ways of farming. We have also established and developed our diversified and integrated farms which is our source of nutritious food, pride and freedom.” explains Ramon Oliva, a MASIPAG organic farmer and community leader of SIKWAL-GMO, a local peasant alliance.

The International conference heard that Australia/New Zealand Food Standards (FSANZ) approval of GR2E rice, ‘in case of contamination’ to ‘avoid trade issues’ [2], would have negative impacts on indigenous farmers all over Asia. Experts from India, the Philippines and Indonesia all provided published studies raising concerns over the safety of the rice, casting doubt FSANZ decision-making, and its independence

As the Filipino law stands, the FSANZ safety assessment can be used to open the door for approval to plant GE rice in many of the Asian rice growing countries.

The developer of the GM rice, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), receives support from Syngenta, Dow and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is donating the “GR2E” rice on humanitarian grounds but Syngenta owns the commercial patent. IRRI cannot be sued and so farmers will have no recourse when the indigenous rice is contaminated.

“The humanitarian excuse is a farce. There are 150,000 native rice varieties all adapted to their special climates, but GE rice will only pollute and then lead to the destruction of indigenous rice varieties,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ, referring to stunted growth and low yield results of Golden Rice hybrid with India’s traditional Swarna rice variety.

Delegates discussed the concerns of peasants and farmers over the dangers posed by the GE rice to the environment, livelihoods of subsistence farmers, children and women. About 5 billion people rely on the peasant food web for their food

Whilst New Zealand consumers have a choice whether to buy rice or not, in Asian countries rice is a staple food eaten at every meal, morning and afternoon tea. The impacts on the small farmers will be devastating, but contamination would also affect the commercial lines and these would be subject to patent charges.

Dr Debal Deb a farmer and ecologist spoke on the diverse, accessible, nutritionally superior beta-carotene sources from forests and farms. The daily vitamin A requirement for an adult is provided by one medium carrot equivalent to 4kg of cooked freshly harvested GR2E rice. He said the GE rice must be thoroughly tested to be proven safe. The only feeding study cited by FSANZ, (Tang et al ), was unethical and unsound and the paper had been retracted in 2012 [3][4][5].

A meeting statement , facilitated by a the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), a government body, summarised the Conference “Rice is Life and the soul of our Asian heritage…We cannot allow a handful of corporations who poison our land and deny control over our seeds take hold of our food systems, especially rice – the backbone of Asia’s agriculture.”
“Unfortunately FSANZ has not provided the scientific evidence that can support GE rice safety.” Said Claire Bleakley

“ We hope that the Philippine regulators are not as lax and will protect the most vulnerable in their country by ensuring that long term safety studies, along the EU and Codex guidelines, are carried out.”

References
[1] International Conference on Rice, https://www.facebook.com/Masipag-330604687006523/
[2] https://press.gefree.org.nz/press/20180123.htm
[3] Golden Rice will not address vitamin deficiency, Ocampo K. (2018) https://business.inquirer.net/248584/golden-rice-will-not-address-vitamin-deficiency-hunger-anti-gmo-coalition-gmo-napc-rice-hunger-food-security/amp?__twitter_impression=true
[4] https://www.facebook.com/294862020923844/videos/370412046702174/
[5] Tang et al, https://www.nature.com/news/china-sacks-officials-over-golden-rice-controversy-1.11998

Full documentation can be found on GE Free NZ call for a review of A1138 at https://www.gefree.org.nz/reports-and-submissions/

ENDS:
Claire Bleakley - president 027 348 6731
Jon Carapiet - National Spokesman 0210507681

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