Rejected Rice

A mid-January press release tells of rice from China rejected by Europe because it was “contaminated” with rice modified to express a version of the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin: Bt63. The offending rice had been made into such products as noodles and distributed across Europe before the Bt63 was noticed. To me, there is one important question here: is this rice dangerous, or is it simply being held up in regulation unnecessarily? According to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), it is not dangerous. The organization said it is “not aware of any health implications for consumers who eat rice products containing Bt63”. [food navigator, original emphasis].
Various versions of the Bt toxin are used in multiple crop types all over the world. The safety of Bt in general is complete because of its unique nature. It is called a toxin, but it is actually only toxic to arthropods. The varieties come from different populations of natural Bt bacteria. For more information on Bt, please see the excellent article by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Feeding studies have shown there there is no toxic effect of Bt on rats. For a summary of a recent study on one type of Bt, see “EFSA stands by its opinion: No concerns.” It is possible (although chemically unlikely) that untested versions of the Bt toxin could be toxic to animals other than arthropods. This is why each new type is tested extensively for safety before being released into the food supply. I wasn’t able to find any information on Bt63 feeding studies, but there are two very good reasons why I could not find it. 1st the studies are likely in Chinese, and 2nd I do not have to time to wade through the pages of anti-GMO propaganda that appear when I search for “Bt63 feeding study.”
According to an article on GMO Compass (an information website funded by the EU), the Chinese have been field testing Bt63 rice since 2001. “Despite several announcements of intention, Chinese authorities have yet to approve Bt63 rice for cultivation. However, during the field trials, farmers apparently reserved supplies of Bt63 seeds and sowed these in the following years: due to the properties of Bt63, significantly smaller quantities of insecticides may be used in its cultivation.”
In other words, farmers in China saved seed so they could avoid using large amounts of insecticide on their rice. Europeans want to punish these farmers for trying to safeguard their own health and the health of the environment.
This story is a bit old, but I felt that it needed to be dissected. Please forgive me for being busy!

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