Compulsory GM rice testing approved by EU

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm rice, Rice, European union, Us

European member states have endorsed a draft EC decision to impose
compulsory tests on all US long grain rice imports in order to
prove the absence of illegal biotech strains.

The decision follows the lack of agreement by the US authorities to a common sampling and testing protocol, said the European Commission earlier this week.

Under the draft decision agreed by experts in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, 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.

But although the EC allowed 15 days to seek US agreement on a common approach to sampling and testing, the two sides were unable to agree on a proposed protocol. US long grain rice imports now continue to be subject to the certification requirements imposed when LL601 was first reported to be present in US rice in August.

And under the new decision, all US long-grain rice will now also be sampled and tested at the point of entry to the EU by Member State authorities.

The counter tests will also take into account the French authorities recent finding of another unauthorised GMO, LLRICE62, in US rice; the tests to be applied will also detect this GM event.

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

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.

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