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[March 14, 2006]
GE rice found in Heinz baby cereal in China: Greenpeace+
(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)HONG KONG, March 14_(Kyodo) _ Environmental group Greenpeace said Tuesday one of the best selling baby foods in China, sold by U.S. food giant Heinz, contains genetically engineered rice.
Fung Ka-keung, food and agriculture campaigner of Greenpeace China, said that of the 19 baby food and snack products bought in Beijing in January and tested by the German laboratory GeneScan, the group found Heinz's baby cereal to contain GE rice.
"The result is truly shocking," Fung said. "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 control."
Selling GE food is illegal in China, which put into force the U.N. Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in September last year. The protocol regulates international trade, handling and use of GE organisms.
Fung said consuming GE rice could cause allergies and babies should not be used as guinea pigs.
"The (British) Royal Society recommended that rigorous tests are carried out if GE ingredients are one day considered for use in infant formula," he said.
The baby cereal products, for babies 4 to 24 months old, are still being sold in the market, carrying an expiration date of March 12, 2007.
"We suspect the GE rice ingredient came from (central China's) Hubei Province, where Greenpeace exposed the growing of biotech anti-pest rice in April last year. Heinz might not have intended to use GE rice as an ingredient for the cereal, but a faulty inspection system could have facilitated contamination," Fung said.
A response from Heinz obtained by Greenpeace last Wednesday said the company is "conducting thorough investigation" into the case. The amount of sales of the product was not immediately known.
Heinz's baby cereals sold in Hong Kong and China are both produced in a factory in Guangzhou of southern China's Guangdong Province. The group also tested the product sold in Hong Kong but found no traces of GE rice.
Selling GE food in Hong Kong is practically legal because there is no law against it.
The group also revealed Monday that the Hong Kong government provided to farmers GE papaya seeds last year. The government said it has ordered farmers to eradicate all 300 papaya trees and fruits, and that it is working with the Chinese research institute that provided the seeds on an investigation.
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