FSA moves to block illegal GM rice

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Rice, European union, Gm

The UK's Food Standards Agency has taken action to ensure that
testing and monitoring is carried out on consignments of American
long grain rice in the UK.

The announcement follows last week's news that US authorities traced amounts of unapproved genetically modified (GM) food in samples of rice, prompting the EU to clamp down on all imports from the US.

This has had an immediate effect on rice supplies. The USA is one of the major suppliers of rice to the EU - approximately 20,000 tons of long grain husked, semi-milled and wholly-milled rice from the USA arrives in the EU each month.

In fact, the US provides about 12 per cent of world rice trade.

But the EU, which has some of the most stringent rules on GM food, has swiftly put into effect a raft of measures including the requirement that all imports of long grain rice must be certified as free from the unauthorised GMO LL Rice 601.

What's more, Member states are responsible for controlling the imports at their borders and for preventing any contaminated consignments from being placed on the market. Ireland's FSAI has implemented a ban on certain US long grain rice products unless they are clearly certified as being free of unauthorised GM rice, and now the UK's FSA has put into effect tough measures to ensure that the UK's food chain remains free from unauthorised GMOs.

At the moment, all imports of long grain rice are being held at ports until they can be certified to be free of GM.

"The presence of this GM material in rice on sale in the UK is illegal under European health law, even at extremely low levels,"​ said FSA director of food safety Dr Andrew Wadge.

"This is why we are taking steps to test American long grain rice and ensure future imports are GM free.

"Food retailers are responsible for ensuring that the food they sell does not contain unauthorised GM material. Our independent scientific experts have looked at the data on this material and have concluded that there is no food safety risk.

"Therefore the Agency is advising people who have long grain rice from the US at home that they can continue to eat it."

The whole issue has hit US rice farmers the hardest, and they are angry that their lucrative export markets have suddenly dried up. Attorneys for some rice farmers are in the process of suing Bayer CropScience, the maker of GMO LL Rice 601, alleging its GM rice has contaminated the crop.

"Our clients feel that Bayer should have taken stricter steps when growing this genetically modified rice to prevent it from contaminating the commercial rice market,"​ said Richard S. Lewis, a partner and environmental legal expert with the Cohen, Milstein law firm.

"Bayer's actions have resulted in an unprecedented price drop financially impacting all rice farmers."

The European Commission says it is currently leading discussions with US authorities to ensure that no further products containing unauthorised GM material are exported to Europe.

Related topics: Market Trends, Food Safety & Quality

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