Archived press release
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All long grain rice imports from the United States must now be tested for illegal genetically modified material before they are allowed to enter Europe, the European Union has ruled [1]. Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision, which was made at a meeting of national food experts yesterday.

The decision followed two week of negotiations between the EU and US which failed to reach agreement over a common testing method for illegal GM rice.

In August, the EU put in place "emergency measures" to prevent imports of long grain rice from the US contaminated with an illegal genetically modified strain, from being imported into the EU. This followed an announcement that an unauthorised strain of GM rice (Bayer CropScience's LLRICE601), had contaminated commercial rice supplies in the US.

The tougher sanctions follow the discovery by Dutch authorities that a shipment, certified as GM-free by the US, contained the illegal GM rice [2]. Instead of relying on a certificate from the US, all consignments of US long-grain rice will now be sampled and tested at EU entry ports before they can be distributed and sold. More than 80 cases of illegal GM rice contamination in Europe have now been identified [3].

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow said:

"We welcome the decision to test all long grain rice imports from the United States for illegal genetically modified material. Tightening up testing is vital to ensure that no further contaminated rice is imported into Europe. But it has been over two months now since the contamination incident was reported. How much contaminated rice has been imported into the EU while authorities were relying on flawed tests from the US? Member States must urgently step up testing of products already on shop shelves to ensure that consumers are not exposed to illegal GM rice."

GM contamination is also possible in other foods which have been imported from countries that conduct outdoor experimental GM trials. Rice products imported from China into the UK, France and Germany have already been found to be contaminated with an illegal genetically modified variant [4]. Friends of the Earth is calling for the new strict protocols to be extended to all crops imported from countries that test genetically modified crops outdoors.

Clare Oxborrow continued:

"All foods imported from countries that experiment with genetically modified crops outdoors should be tested. Chinese rice has already been shown to be contaminated, but the European Commission has so far failed to act to require tests for Chinese rice. Europe's trading relationship with China appears to be more important than protecting consumers."

Notes

[1] The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health met yesterday (Monday October 23rd) in Brussels. The UK was represented by the Food Standards Agency.

[2] www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/ ¬
call_for_us_rice_ban_after_21092006.html

[3] Friends of the Earth Europe has published information online about all the reported rice contamination cases over the last two months:

www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/rice_contamination.htm

[4] www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/ ¬
illegal_gm_rice_found_in_u_05092006.html
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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust