PRESS RELEASE | The BPP statement on the rice industry
Belmopan | January 13th, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Belize Progressive Party (BPP) calls on the Government to institute an urgent public information campaign on the production, importation and distribution of rice in Belize.
The BPP has uncovered information which it deems crucial for the public’s interest. It found that, of the 5 grades of rice produced in country, only Grade C is price controlled. Grade C is rice which contains 30% broken and 70% whole kernels, and sells for the controlled price of 76 cents per lb. The prices of other grades of rice including Grade A, Grade B and Grade D are determined on the percentage of broken kernels to whole kernels and are left to the producer and the retailer to determine. Premium Grade rice, which is the grade that sells the most, is not price controlled either and consists of 96% percent whole kernel rice. The price control then is only for Grade C rice, which is the least purchased right after Grade D.
On the issue of food safety, the BPP is very concerned with the laxity in monitoring the arsenic content of locally produced rice. Arsenic is one of the world’s most toxic elements. While most crops don’t readily retain much arsenic, rice is different because it takes up arsenic from soil and water more readily than other grains. Long term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with higher rates of: skin, bladder and lung cancers as well as heart disease. It is important to note that the number 2 killer of Belizeans is heart disease and Belizeans are known to consume millions of pounds of rice per year. The BPP notes that some rice exports out of Guyana to South America have been rejected due to contamination.
The BPP says that although there is a moratorium on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), it is not possible to say definitively that GMO rice is not being produced in Belize, because the Ministry of Agriculture does not have the capacity to test for GMO rice, also we found out that the government does not have a risk-assessment system in place. The only GMO testing in Belize is carried out on corn and soy, but not rice.
The BPP calls for more regular and stringent testing of rice, as well as other agricultural crops.
END OF RELEASE