Greenpeace Asserts GE Rice Used in Bud

budweiser
Greenpeace today released the results of an independent analysis of rice at an Arkansas mill which supplies rice to Anheuser-Busch for use in their beer. The lab found genetically engineered rice in 75% of the samples. From the press release:

An independent laboratory, commissioned by Greenpeace, detected the presence of GE rice (Bayer LL601) in three out of four samples taken at the mill. The experimental GE rice is one of three rice varieties that were first found in 2006 to have contaminated rice stocks in the US. Since then, GE contamination has been found in approximately 30 per cent of US rice stocks. This has had a massive negative impact on the US rice industry as foreign markets, where GE rice has not been approved, have been closed to US rice.

“Anheuser-Busch must make a clear statement about the level of GE contamination of the rice used to brew Budweiser in the US and spell out what measures are in place to ensure this beer does not reach the company’s export markets,” said Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International GE Campaigner.

“US beer drinkers need Anheuser-Busch to explain why it is not preventing use of this genetically-engineered rice in the US. If, as the company has informed Greenpeace, all of the Budweiser exported from the US or manufactured outside of the US is guaranteed GE free then Anheuser-Busch needs to state this publicly, and explain the double standard,” said Stabinsky.

Greenpeace informed Anheuser-Busch of the test results prior to their release and sought clear information from the company on the extent of contamination and its global policy on the use of GE ingredients. Anheuser-Busch responded that the rice is approved in the US and is not used in brewing Budweiser destined for export. The full extent of the contamination remains unclear, however.

LL601 GE rice was retroactively granted approval by the US Dept of Agriculture in an effort to reduce public concern and company liability despite 15,000 public objections. The European Food Safety Authority stated that there was insufficient data to make a finding of safety. Greenpeace says that US consumers have a right to know if this GE rice is used to make Budweiser. This GE rice is not approved outside the US so the Budweiser brewed with it could not be sold abroad.

Anheuser-Busch is the largest single rice buyer in the US, buying 6-10 per cent of the annual US rice crop. Budweiser is one of only a few beers having rice as an ingredient. The brand is found in around 60 countries through a mix of exports and local brewing arrangements.

I recently did an article on green breweries and interviewed the Senior Group Director of Environmental, Health and Safety for A-B. I was pleasantly surprised at just how many things they were doing to be “green” so it seems surprising that they’d overlook genetically engineered rice being used in the beer itself. One thing you can say about Anheuser-Busch is that they do care about their public perception, so it will be interesting to see their reaction to this revelation.

bud-gerice

Doug Muhleman, Anheuser-Busch’s Group Vice President of Brewing, Operations and Technology, released a statement yesterday which I think suggests that Greenpeace is not the virtuous one in this story. On closer examination, this may be more about international politics than beer. Here’s Muhleman’s statement:

Greenpeace’s statements regarding our beer brands are false and defamatory. All of our products are made according to the highest quality standards and in complete compliance with the laws in each country where we sell our beers.

We stand in support of U.S. farmers, who are partners with us in the quality of our products. Greenpeace recently asked us to join their advocacy campaign on genetically modified crops. We refused their calls to boycott U.S. farmers, and they are now retaliating.

The use of genetically modified crops in the United States is not new. The vast majority of the commercial corn and soybean supply in the United States contains genetically modified versions that are certified to be safe for human consumption by the U.S. Government.

We use U.S. rice for brewing our products for U.S. consumption. U.S.-grown long-grained rice that may have micro levels of Liberty Link proteins present is fully approved by the U.S. Government, having determined that it is perfectly safe for human consumption. Moreover, the Liberty Link protein, like all proteins, is substantially removed or destroyed by the brewing process. Liberty Link has not been found in any of our tests of our beers brewed in the United States.

We fully comply with all international regulatory standards on the use or presence of genetically modified ingredients wherever our beers are sold internationally, as well. Neither Anheuser-Busch, nor our international licensed brewing partners use genetically modified ingredients, including genetically modified rice, in brewing products sold in any country with legal restrictions.

We talked with Greenpeace, hoping to help them understand the facts. We are disappointed that they instead chose to pursue pressure tactics.

Now I’m no fan of GMO’s, but they have been used here for many years and, like it or not, they’re a part of our massive food system. Short of pulling out every crop in the country and starting over, I’m not exactly sure what would satisfy Greenpeace. Certainly the way Greenpeace is seeking to sensationalize this seems more bullying than anything. I confess I was alarmed when I first read the story but having looked at it more closely in the interim I’m not sure their tactics are entirely warranted.

ab-muhleman
Me with Doug Muhleman at an A-B reception at GABF last year.

Comments

  1. says

    Jay,
    I did a roundtable interview with about 10 bourbon distillers a few years ago for Malt Advocate, and the subject of GMO corn came up. They were very nervous about it, because it was getting harder and harder to find non-GMO corn; not because it wasn’t being planted, but because the pollen blows for miles…and the GMO corn pollen was getting into the non-GMO stuff. Corn’s an odd bird, but I find myself wondering if there’s not a similar situation going on here, something more an indictment of U.S. agriculture than of A-B buying choices. Dunno.

    Lew

  2. Rick says

    Well, I am not surprised because I have heard of GE/GMO crops contaminating non-GE/GMO crops before, as Lew Mentions. I had no idea A-B accounted for that much of the US Rice crops! My goodness. For as much as I don’t like the stuff, I can’t help but think this is not something they did deliberately, but who knows. I will be interested to see how they respond, it could turn out to be a good thing for US crops and farming overall. A-B has been pushing a green agenda for a few years now, and have done a pretty good job on that, I suspect they’ll want to maintain that image.

  3. says

    Because it’s so new that man cross breeds different crops, I don’t know what the big deal is on this we have been it for thousands of years, now that the term geneticly modified it has become demonized. The funny thing is the scientific community has supported GMO as acceptable by the same margin of that believe in global warming. Should it be labeled as such sure I agree, but otherwise it’s not a big deal.

    If you don’t want to touch GMO corn syrup, don’t drink a US made soda again.

    I think labeling is fine, inform the customer but let the market decide.

    Reminds me of this recent story.
    http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2007/08/greenpeace-poisons-hungry-crowd-or-not.html

  4. says

    J, you might have your tech person look at how the page renders in IE this comment field becomes alittle weird after you type the anti-spam code and it’s tough to see everything you have typed, made double checking difficult. Thanks, love the site otherwise.

  5. says

    Someone’s watching… I got an e-mail from A-B, noting that I’d commented on this, and laying out their position.

    In a statement attributed to Group VP Doug Muhleman, A-B states that the Greenpeace claims are “false and defamatory,” that this is in retaliation for refusing a Greenpeace call to boycott farmers who grow GMO crops, that the rice they use passes all US gov’t standards, and that the “micro levels of Liberty Link proteins” (which I assume is a genetically modified rice strain) are “substantially removed or destroyed by the brewing process.”

    Well. Speaking as someone who tends not to give a damn about GMO crop, this sounds like a tempest in a pisspot to me.

  6. says

    The Prince of Wales always gets upset about GM foods. We need to keep him busy so I’m all up for allowing this issue to run and run…

    To my mind the Greenpeace image you’ve posted is embarrassing even if one has no issue with GM crops – simply because it reminds consumers the beer is made partly with rice.

  7. says

    Thomas said:

    “Because it’s so new that man cross breeds different crops, I don’t know what the big deal is on this we have been it for thousands of years, now that the term geneticly modified it has become demonized.”

    If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, you imply that man has been cross-breeding plants for thousands of years, and therefore we shouldn’t be afraid of GMO’s. I hate to break it to you, but there’s a HUGE difference between “old-fashioned” selective breeding, and introducing new genes into a place they were never meant to be. Liberty Link rice has been specifically designed to resist AgrEvo’s Liberty herbicide. This is a gene that was created in a lab and introduced into the plant; there’s no possible way they could have cross-bred anything to achieve this new species because this resistance doesn’t occur in nature. Thus, it bears no similarity to the processes and techniques that farmers have been using for thousands of years to create better, higher-yielding crops.

    Even scarier than the genetic modification itself is the reason they did it; namely to increase the plants’ resistance to Liberty so that industrial farms can dump even more toxic chemicals into the soil without harming their crops.

    My biggest concern is that this branch of scientific research is so new that there’s no way to be sure what the long-term effects will be. How many years did they use DDT (and claim it was safe) before birds started having soft-shell eggs and women began giving birth to deformed kids? 20? 40?

    Ugh.

  8. Brian H says

    Anyone care to guess about Miller/Molson/Coors and if the rice and corn they use is any different?
    It is too bad AB didn’t start by saying,”Yes, we do, but…” instead of “false and defamatory.” It is what it is and it ain’t what it ain’t.

  9. says

    A-B has accused Greenpeace International of making “misleading, false and defamatory statements” about its operations which Greenpeace has denied. Greenpeace is continuing to call for Anheuser-Busch to make a public commitment to produce all of its beer GE free. A-B has already made a commitment to use only GE free ingredients in China and what Greenpeace wants is for A-B just to extend the right to drink GE free Bud to the rest of us. “We only want the same standards that the Chinese enjoy, nothing less,” they state (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/getinvolved/wassup-budweiser).

    “We are disappointed that Anheuser-Busch didn’t simply come clean and join other major brewing concerns, like Heineken, that have gone GE free,” says Professor Doreen Stabinsky from Greenpeace International.

    “Anheuser-Busch’s threat of legal action is no way to address the public concerns. The solution is for Anheuser-Busch to reassure its customers in the US and abroad about the purity of its product. It’s a simple question of the right to know.”

    Greenpeace has published its correspondence with A-B and to tell you the truth, it doesn’t look very good for A-B..

  10. michelle says

    As the one of the persons who like beer,I’m so surprised and worried about it and Budweiser is the one of famous beer compmanies in the world.
    I think consumers should try to know about it and care about it, cause it can be related with our health and environment. I definitely don’t want beer used by genetically contaminated rice.

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