Monday, October 31, 2005

Background on GE Rice in California

California is currently free of GE crops, with the exception of GE cotton grown in the Central Valley. However, because of the size of California’s agricultural industry and the fact that we produce hundreds of diverse crops, the biotech industry is planning to introduce many new GE crops in the next several years.

The coalition Californians for GE-Free Agriculture has formed to prevent the production of all GE crops in the state. In 2004, the main thrust of our campaign is stopping GE rice. In September 2003, the US Environmental Protection Agency gave final regulatory approval for Bayer’s Liberty Link GE rice. Liberty Link rice is engineered to be tolerant to glufosinate, a broad-spectrum herbicide similar to Monsanto’s Roundup. Liberty Link rice may be available for planting as soon as the 2005 growing season. California produces 20% of all rice grown in the US on about 500,000 acres, and is the nation’s second largest rice producing state. Most of the rice grown in California is a high quality medium grain variety known as CalRose, used in baby food, desserts, beer, breakfast cereal, and also as table rice.

A Sacramento-based company, Ventria BioSciences, has been trying to get approval for a “pharm” variety of rice to be grown in California on a commercial scale. Pharm crops are plants that have been engineered to produce a pharmaceutical drug. Ventria’s pharm rice is genetically engineered with human genes that produce two proteins, lactoferrin and lysozyme. They are used as anti-microbials to manage diarrhea, prevent iron deficiency and treat infections in humans, and for use in poultry rearing facilities. Many consumers and food companies are concerned that these drugs may someday end up in their food as the result of contamination of rice.

Many in the US and around the world are concerned about and are actively opposing GE crops. Mounting evidence is also showing that:
• GE foods are increasing the likelihood of new food allergens or novel toxins being introduced into our food supply.
• GE crops are leading to increased pesticide use and are harming beneficial insects, earthworms and birds.
• GE crops are threatening both conventional and organic farmers as a result of genetic contamination, costing them billions of dollars in lost export markets.
• The use of food crops to produce pharmaceuticals presents a threat to the human food supply due to the impossibility of preventing contamination.

We are working closely with farmers to highlight the dangers that GE crops pose to their economic wellbeing and autonomy, and with consumers to pressure food companies and supermarkets to reject GE foods. We strive to build a strong network that not only rejects genetic engineering but also supports a vision of sustainable agriculture in California.

Action: What you can do

Call your state Representative and Senator and ask their position on GE foods
Let them know you are concerned about this technology and the negative impact it will have on the state’s agriculture. Ask them to support any future legislation preventing GE crops from being grown in the state.
Find contact info for your local officials here

Join our Volunteer Network
Sign up online to receive monthly updates about the campaign, as well as periodic action alerts.

Support sustainable alternatives to GE
Buy organic whenever possible. Organic standards prohibit the use of GE seeds.
Buy local: Visit your local farmers’ market
Support Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)


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