EC proposes compulsory GM rice testing

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm rice, European union

The EC is set to ask food safety experts to impose compulsory tests
on all US long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of illegal
biotech strains.

According to Reuters, the European Commission will table a decision imposing mandatory counter testing for unauthorised genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all imports of US long-grain rice, at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain next Monday.

If the experts accept the Commission's proposal, tests will be carried out on cargoes arriving at EU ports - at the expense of the exporter.

This follows the discovery in August by US authorities that an unauthorised GMO, LL Rice 601, had been found in samples of commercial US rice. No GM rice is allowed to be grown or sold within the EU.

The EC swiftly adopted a decision requiring imports of long grain rice to be certified as free from the unauthorised rice.

The stringent procedures have already had an impact on US farmers, for whom the EU is a key market. The EU imports approximately 20,000 tons of long grain husked, semi-milled and wholly-milled rice from the USA per month on average.

Attorneys for some rice farmers have even threatened to sue the maker of LL Rice 601, Bayer CropScience, alleging its GM rice has contaminated the crop.

A lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, alleges that a unit of Germany's Bayer Corporation failed to prevent its GM rice from entering the food chain. Strict limits placed on US rice imports have led to a dramatic fall in the price of US rice.

LL Rice 601 is one of a number of GM rice lines developed by the biotech company Bayer that were engineered to tolerate the herbicide, glufosinate ammonium.

The safety of a number of herbicide tolerant GM rice lines, not including LL Rice 601, was assessed in the US resulting in the authorisation of two GM lines for placing on the market in 1999. GM rice is not authorised for the EU market at present.

Earlier this month, the Commission set a 15-day period for negotiating a common sampling protocol with US authorities to detect the GM rice strain, which has turned up in the food chains of at least nine EU countries in the last two months.

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