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China Rice Fight

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared a Bt rice variety, developed by Chinese researchers, safe for consumption in the U.S. in early January. The move has raised the hackles of the industry group USA Rice. “The marketplace does not want GM rice, so neither do we,” USA Rice president Betsy Ward announced in a press release.

Developed by researchers from Huazhong University, Huahui No. 1 rice is engineered to express the Bt protein Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac, which targets lepidopteran pests and is familiar to U.S. Bt corn and cotton growers.

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The GM rice strain is now in a curious position. Since it also received EPA approval regarding its pesticide residues, it has legal clearance for import and consumption in the U.S. However, the rice is not yet commercialized in its own home country of China, which currently doesn’t permit any GM grain production. Lacking deregulation from the USDA, it can’t be grown in the U.S. either.

Ward urged rice importers to avoid the Huahui No. 1 rice from China, which is not a major source of imported rice in the U.S. In 2017, the U.S. only imported around 6,000 metric tons of Chinese rice compared to 455,000 metric tons from Thailand, the leading source of imported rice here. USA Rice notes that American consumers can purchase U.S.-grown rice if they wanted to be sure of a non-GMO product.

“While GMOs are perfectly safe, the fact that there is no GMO rice in commercial production in the U.S. resonates very strongly with customers, dietitians and importers around the world,” says Cameron Jacobs, USA Rice manager of domestic promotion.

Find FDA’s approval letter at bit.ly/2E3MYOc and USA Rice’s statement at bit.ly/2EqwPjF.

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