EU urged to ban North American rice
US rice contaminated by illegal GM strain
Friends of the Earth Europe
For Immediate release: Monday 21 August 2006
Brussels, August 21, 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has today called on the European Commission to immediately restrict imports of American rice after the US Department for Agriculture (USDA) revealed that the US food chain has been contaminated with an illegal and untested genetically modified (GM) strain .
The US announcement states that conventional long-grain rice on the market has been contaminated by a GM rice that was grown at experimental test sites between 1998 and 2001. The statement does not reveal how widespread the contamination is or how the contamination occurred. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the European Union to follow the example of Japan, which suspended US rice imports on Saturday. 
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This is a complete scandal. The biotech industry has failed once again to control its experiments and lax regulations in the US have allowed consumers worldwide to be put at risk. The European Union must immediately suspend US rice imports until consumers can be guaranteed protection from untested and illegal foods."
Europe imports approximately 70 million Euros worth of US rice every year . The source of the contamination is apparently an experimental GM rice called LLRICE601, produced by German-based biotechnology company Bayer. This experimental rice is engineered to withstand application of the herbicide glufosinate, but it has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world and has not undergone any official assessments to determine its health or environmental impact. According to Bayer the GM rice "is present in some samples of commercial rice seed at low levels" even though field-testing ended five years ago. Bayer informed the USDA of the contamination on 31 July 2006.
As well as calling for an immediate import ban, Friends of the Earth Europe has called for an investigation by authorities in the US and Europe into the full extent of the contamination and for Bayer to release all the necessary information into the public domain on the safety testing and detection methods for LLRICE601.
"It is vital that Bayer is forced to reveal all information about how this contamination has occurred over such a long time scale. Contamination of the food chain is totally unacceptable and must be prevented in the future," Mr Bebb added.
This latest case of GM contamination echoes a GM maize scandal in March last year, in which the biotech company Syngenta admitted to selling an experimental and illegal GM maize variety to US farmers for four years. Maize exports to Europe were contaminated with the illegal maize, and the European Commission put in place emergency measures to prevent the import of contaminated maize into the EU. These measures are still in place .
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 The announcement was made late on Friday 18 August in the US.