ILLEGAL GM RICE: ...some Chinese growers and foreign specialists say they suspect much of this region's rice has been genetically modified... Many sellers here said the supplies came from a local university that specializes in biotech rice research. They said bags of rice could be bought there... "All the anti-bug seeds have been sold out," said a woman operating the store at the Huazhong Agriculture University in Wuhan. (ITEM 2)
ILLEGAL GM MAIZE: The vote could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports... The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10... E.U. spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use... Such a test would still need further approval from E.U. authorities. It was not immediately clear how long such approval would take. (ITEM 1)
1.E.U. Votes Ban on U.S. Corn Gluten
2.China's Problem With 'Anti-Pest' Rice - NYT
1.E.U. Votes Ban on U.S. Corn Gluten
By Raf Casert
Washington Post, April 16, 2005 [page 1]
BRUSSELS, April 15 -- European Union nations voted Friday to ban U.S. shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless they are assured that the imports are free of unauthorized genetically modified corn.
The vote could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval.
"This is a targeted measure which is necessary to uphold E.U. law, maintain consumer confidence and ensure that the unauthorized GMO Bt10 cannot enter the E.U.. Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt10 will be able to continue," said E.U. Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.
The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by U.S. or European regulators. E.U. spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use.
Michael Mack, chief operating officer of Syngenta Seeds, said it would quickly have a workable test for the E.U..
"We will make operational within a matter of days a valid test method to detect for Bt10," Mack said. Such a test would still need further approval from E.U. authorities. It was not immediately clear how long such approval would take.
U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the E.U. totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year.
The United States said the ban was exaggerated.
"We view the E.U.'s decision to impose a certification requirement on U.S. corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt10 corn to be an overreaction," said Edward Kemp, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the E.U..
"U.S. regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt10," Kemp said. "There is no reason to expect any negative impact from the small amounts of Bt10 corn that may have entered the E.U.."
The ban is to come into force early next week, pending approval by the E.U.'s head office.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the move. "Europe now has a de facto ban on the import of many US animal feeds," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb.
However, Greenpeace said stricter controls are needed to prevent more cases of unauthorized biotech imports.
"Europe is currently helpless to defend itself from contamination by GMOs that are suspected to harm human health and the environment," said Christoph Then, genetic engineering expert for the group.
"As long as E.U. authorities have no means to test imports for all the GMOs being released in the U.S. and elsewhere, it must say 'no entry' to the E.U. for any food, feed or seeds that are at risk of contamination," he said.
The E.U. said it is in continuous contact with U.S. authorities on the issue, but its decision to ban suspect corn gluten imports further strains trans-Atlantic trade relations.
Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt10.
The company said in a written statement that under the settlement reached with U.S. authorities, it would pay a fine of $375,000 and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules.
However, the E.U. has been annoyed that U.S. authorities allowed the export of Bt10 to Europe after it was mixed up with an authorized biotech Syngenta maize labeled Bt11.
About 1,000 tons of animal feed containing the corn are thought to have entered the E.U. since 2001. The E.U.'s head office earlier had said some food products, including flour and oil may also have been imported, but its statement Friday said that, "according to current information from the U.S. authorities and the European food industry, food products in the E.U. are not affected."
Nevertheless, the case has underscored European concerns about biotech foods, coming shortly after the E.U. relaxed restrictions on genetically modified organisms.
2.China's Problem With 'Anti-Pest' Rice
By DAVID BARBOZA
NEW YORK TIMES, April 16, 2005
UHAN, China, April 14 - The farmer reaches down into a sack he keeps stored on the second floor of his house in a small farming village south of here and pulls up a fistful of rice that he says has no equal.
"This is really remarkable rice," he says, forcing it into the hands of his guests. "All you do is plant it and it grows. You don't need to use all those chemicals any more."
The farmer and other crop growers in this area call this unique variety "anti-pest rice" because it acts as its own insect repellent in the rice paddies. But some Chinese growers and foreign specialists say they suspect much of this region's rice has been genetically modified.
And in China, it is illegal to sell genetically modified rice on the open market.
The environmental group Greenpeace, which had rice in this area tested by an independent lab in Germany, says the results show that some of the rice was altered with a gene that creates resistance to pests.
Although experiments with gene-altered rice are under way in most rice-producing countries, including the United States, no country produces it for commercial sale. Cultivation and consumption have been tempered by criticism over the potential health or environmental consequences. Although no such effects have been proved, the opposition has worried regulators, leading them to be cautious in approving gene-altered rice. It also has prompted reluctance among growers around the world to embrace a crop that may be labeled Frankenstein food.
Yet in several small villages around Wuhan, in Hubei province, a large rice-growing region in central China, genetically engineered rice appears to be for sale, even by government officials who are supposed to be enforcing a ban on its sale until it is approved for commercialization, perhaps this year.
Chinese officials hope the commercialization of genetically engineered rice in China, the largest producer and consumer of rice, will be a momentous global event, because rice is the world's largest and most important food staple. If the technology works, genetically engineered rice could offer higher yields.
But now activists like Greenpeace are warning that in Hubei, genetically engineered rice has prematurely seeped into a corner of China's food system. They say the possible health and environmental risks are worrisome because genetic engineering is still in the experimental stage.
If biotech rice has found its way into the food system here, China has become the first place in the world where a major crop, in this instance rice, is being directly consumed by humans - and without regulatory approval. But there are many unanswered questions, starting with the scale or even the existence of any risks to health.
Gerard Barry, a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, said there was virtually no evidence that genetically modified crops were harmful to humans. He said the gene used in China's biotech rice could be similar to the gene in what is called BT corn and cotton, which is approved for use in Europe and the United States.
"There have been multiple approvals in corn and cotton, and there has been nothing to suggest allergies or other problems," he said.
There are other unanswered questions. Chinese government officials say they are beginning their own investigation, so aside from explanations from local farmers, there are no official answers to questions about how much or how long the rice has been sold and how many people may have eaten it.
Greenpeace said it bought rice in seed markets and had the suspect packages tested by GeneScan, a respected biotech lab in Germany.
Many sellers here said the supplies came from a local university that specializes in biotech rice research. They said bags of rice could be bought there. But the university store was also out of the rice.
"All the anti-bug seeds have been sold out," said a woman operating the store at the Huazhong Agriculture University in Wuhan. "We started to sell them around January, and it was the most popular product and sold out in the middle of February."