Industry cooperation needed for applying rice tests

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Rice Gm rice European union Gm

The food industry is being asked to work with the European
Commission to implement testing measures for rice imports from
China to prevent unauthorised GM material entering the European
food system.

The new strict methods will come into force on April 15th​, following the identification of rice contaminated with the GMO Bt63 in imports from China. Bt63 is not authorised in either China or the EU. While the Commission is responsible for regulation, under EU law, business operators are responsible for the safety of food or feed they put on the market. ​Food companies and local authorities are being asked to inform enforcement authorities if such GM rice has left their possession and to recall it if it has reached consumers. However, a spokesperson for FSA said she could not comment on the probability of Bt63 rice still being on the market. She said this will become apparent after the testing has been carried out. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) sent out a letter today. It said Chinese imports of rice and rice products may now only be placed on the EU market if: "a) they are accompanied by an original analytical report issued by an official or accredited laboratory which demonstrates that the product does not contain Bt63 or b) satisfactory results of analysis are received by the food authority at the point of entry to the Community, following sampling carried out by or under the supervision of that authority." ​It added that positive and negative results must be reported to the Commission as emergency measures "need to be taken to ensure that products which are found to contain, consist or to be produced from GM rice 'Bt63' are not placed on the market". ​Although the Agency says it is unaware of any health implications for consumers who eat rice products containing Bt63, European regulation 1829/2003 states that GM food and feed should not be placed on the EU market unless it is covered by an authorisation. GM rice incident ​GM contamination of Chinese rice was first discovered in September 2006. The Chinese authorities announced measures to address the problem of GM rice in 2007, including sampling and testing and an official Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Certifical. Despite these measures, the presence of some material containing BT 63 was still being reported in some countries late last year, meaning the European Commission was forced to draw up stringent testing policies. The Commission's Standing Committee of Food Chain and Animal Health voted in February to introduce the emergency measures. The European Commission has now set out the chain of responsibility for ensuring that imported products do not contain GM material. It says that China is responsible for ensuring that Bt63 does not enter the EU food chain, and that imports are certified as free from this GMO. Authorities in member states are responsible for controlling imports at their borders, and preventing contaminated consignments appearing on the market. Member states should also conduct controls on products already on the market to ensure they are Bt63-free. Finally, businesses importing rice products from China are responsible for ensuring Bt63 does not enter the food chain, and that imports are Bt63-free. US contaminated rice ​This appeal to businesses comes the same week it was decided rice imported from the United States no longer needs to be tested for GMO presence both at the point of export and on arrival in the EU, following an amendment to measures following a similar contamination incident. Bayer's LL Rice 601, deisgned to tolerate the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, was discovered in batches of American long grain rice in the EU in August 2006. At that time the rice variety was not approved for human consumption. It has since been approved in the US, but no GM rice is allowed in the EU. The two incidents have had a large impact on the rice industry, and brought into question the efficiency of the food alert system. The FSA came under considerable fire when LLRice 601 was discovered in American rice supplies intended for export. Friends of the Earth called for a judicial review, saying the FSA should have done more work with local authorities and the food industry to ensure illegal GM rice was detected and removed from shelves and other parts of the market.

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