1.EU tightens rules to block tainted U.S. biotech rice - REUTERS
2.EU restrictions on illegal US rice imports inadequate - GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL
3.EC slammed for "complacency and connivance" - GM Free Cymru
EXCERPTS: U.S. authorities insist that the GMO strain poses no risk to public health or the environment. But the Commission, which says it needs much more data about the case, was not so sure.
"We are still missing substantial amounts of information," a senior Commission official said. "For the moment, we do not share the view of the U.S. that there is no risk."
They are also unhappy about U.S. information policy that caused a near 3-week delay in telling Brussels that traces of the unauthorised GMO were found in the commercial rice. (ITEM 1)
Greenpeace International calls on the EC to stop reacting to contamination 'accidents' and start preventing them instead. (ITEM 2)
In Japan, companies have been instructed by the Government not to process or sell any U.S. long-grain rice they may already have imported in recent months. (ITEM 3)
1.EU tightens rules to block tainted U.S. biotech rice
By Jeremy Smith
REUTERS, August 23 2006 http://today.reuters.com/stocks/QuoteCompanyNewsArticle.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-08-23T173242Z_01_L23130635_RTRIDST_0_FOOD-EU-USA-RICE-UPDATE-2.XML&rpc=66
BRUSSELS, Aug 23 (Reuters) - The European Union has tightened requirements on U.S. long grain rice imports to prove there are no signs of an unauthorised genetically modified organism (GMO), the European Commission said on Wednesday.
The decision follows the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of the unauthorised GMO rice strain in long grain samples that were targeted for commercial use.
The rice, called LL Rice 601, is marketed by Germany's Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) to withstand a weed-killing pesticide and grown in the United States.
"The European Commission has today adopted a decision requiring imports of long grain rice from the USA to be certified as free of the unauthorised GMO LL Rice 601," Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news briefing.
With immediate effect, only shipments of U.S. long grain rice tested by an accredited laboratory using a validated detection method will be able to enter EU markets. Shipments must be accompanied certificate assuring the absence of LL 601.
The EU measure will be reviewed on Friday by a committee of EU-25 food safety experts, and again in six months' time.
At present, no GMO rice is authorised for import or sale within the 25-country European Union, which imported 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice last year, with 85 percent being long grain.
Biotech foods have run into strong resistance in Europe, where many consumers view them as "Frankenstein" foods. The biotech industry insists that its products are perfectly safe.
Green groups, which had called for the EU to suspend all its U.S. rice imports, complained that the Commission's restrictions were a "minimal response to a serious contamination problem".
"While the Commission should be congratulated for a quick response to this genetic contamination, this response is inadequate as rice is the world's most important staple food," Jeremy Tager at Greenpeace International said in a statement.
EU UNHAPPY WITH DELAY
U.S. authorities insist that the GMO strain poses no risk to public health or the environment. But the Commission, which says it needs much more data about the case, was not so sure.
"We are still missing substantial amounts of information," a senior Commission official said. "For the moment, we do not share the view of the U.S. that there is no risk."
The EU executive says it still has no idea about possible volumes of LL Rice 601 that may have entered Europe, nor the countries that may have received cargoes with the strain.
They are also unhappy about U.S. information policy that caused a near 3-week delay in telling Brussels that traces of the unauthorised GMO were found in the commercial rice.
On July 31, U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities were notified that testing by Bayer CropScience, a Bayer unit, showed LL Rice 601 in rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri: the first time that unmarketed biotech rice had been found in rice used in the U.S. commercial market.
Japan, for which the United States is the largest rice exporter, banned imports of U.S. long grain rice on Aug. 19.
For LL Rice 601, the validation test was now available and would be distributed in Europe in a few days, officials said.
2.EU restrictions on illegal US rice imports inadequate
Greenpeace International, Press Release
Brussels, International 23 August 2006 - Greenpeace International criticized the announcement by the European Commission (EC) today as a minimal response to a serious contamination problem.
The EC stated that it would only impose testing and certification requirements on imports of long grain rice from the United States which does not address contamination from genetically engineered (GE) rice that may already be in food in the EU. The EC also relies on testing and information provided by Bayer, makes no commitment to its own assessment of the extent of the contamination problem and also imposes no penalties and costs against Bayer.
The EC made this move after Commercial rice in the United States was found contaminated with genetically engineered (GE) Liberty Link (LL) rice 601, produced by agro-chemical giant Bayer and never intended for commercial release. Imports were, as a result, immediately banned in Japan. (1)
"While the Commission should be congratulated for a quick response to this genetic contamination, this response is inadequate as rice is the world's most important staple food and is contained in many food products currently on EU shelves," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner. "It is time to move beyond case-by-case procedures as the GE industry has shown time and time again that it is unwilling or unable to prevent GE contamination."
Greenpeace International calls on the EC to stop reacting to contamination 'accidents' and start preventing them instead. The EC should identify countries and products that are at high risk of contaminating our food supply with illegal or dangerous GE organisms and implement screening, preventative testing and, where there is no demonstrated capacity to prevent contamination, total bans.
Greenpeace International calls on other major importing regions such as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East to take similar steps immediately until the US can guarantee that their rice supply - and other foods - are no longer contaminated.
"A message needs to be sent to the US and to agro-chemical giant Bayer that genetic contamination and 'accidents' with our food are not acceptable, and ultimately they must be held liable for cleaning it up."
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
For more information and interviews
Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner mob +31 (0) 6 4622 1185 office +31 (0) 20 718 2177 Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications +31 (0) 6 4619 7324
Notes to editors (1) http://www.easybourse.com/Website/dynamic/News.php?NewsID=44088&lang=fra&NewsRubrique=2
3.EC slammed for "complacency and connivance" over GM rice fiasco
GM Free Cymru Press Briefing
22 August 2006
The European Commission has been slammed for its feeble and belated response to the latest fiasco involving the GM contamination of essential food supplies by an unauthorised and untested variety of rice.
More GM Lies
On 31st July Bayer CropScience informed USDA that a rice merchandiser had found traces of an unauthorised variety called LL601 in his rice silos in the states of Arkansas and Missouri (1). After eighteen days of private discussions the FDA and APHIS put out a joint "reassurance statement", designed to imply that the contamination was of very limited extent, that it was only present in "trace amounts", and that other LL rice varieties have been approved as safe (2). They also declared that the contaminated rice would not be destroyed, but simply stored for the time being. Then, to cap it all, they said that they intend to cooperate with Bayer in the deregulation (ie approval) of LL601 as speedily as possible. That would, in true American fashion, make everything perfectly all right again, as well as reducing or even eliminating any liability which Bayer might otherwise have to face relating to health, environmental or financial damage.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johans concluded that there were "no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this GE rice." However, he also admitted that he did not know how much rice was contaminated, which rice products were involved, or where the contaminated rice was found (3). Other people seem to know a great deal more than he does (4), and perhaps they should tell him. In South Korea the Ministry of Agriculture and USDA both initially lied to the media, claiming that no LL601 rice had been included in long-grain rice shipments from the US to South Korea in 2005, and that "all rice imports from the U.S. are screened by the USDA-run Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration before they are shipped abroad" (5). In reality, shipments are not all GM-tested, and in any case there is no testing protocol for unauthorised varieties like LL601 since there are no reference samples available. Contamination from scores of other unauthorised, experimental or failed GM varieties could also be present in substantial quantities -- completely unidentified and with unknown health impacts (6).
LL601 -- what is it?
In spite of the pretence from the authorities in the United States and the EU that LL601 is a mysterious variety that can be assumed to be acceptable until somebody proves otherwise, we actually know quite a lot about it. The variety is a "Liberty Link" variety, genetically altered to survive application of the powerful herbicide glufosinate ammonium, manufactured as Liberty by Bayer. It was field-tested under permits granted by the USDA from 1998 to 2001. Bayer then reportedly stopped development of LL601 for unknown reasons five years ago. Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "It was a failed variety, and we can make an intelligent guess that it failed because it was non-uniform and unstable. Another failed "Liberty Link" variety was Chardon LL (T25), a maize variety which was the focus of world attention in 2003 and 2004 before Bayer suddenly abandoned it. Many scientists thought that that variety was dangerous to animals, as they still do with respect to other LL varieties (7). Two "related" LL varieties developed by Bayer (LLRICE06 and LLRICE62) appear to have undergone no animal feeding studies designed to investigate physiological / health effects (8). In spite of the assurances of the UK Competent Authority, there are no grounds for claiming that LL rice is safe for consumption either by farm animals or humans, although the varieties do have approvals in the United States (9)."
The EC -- fast asleep as usual
Since the US Secretary of Agriculture was unable to give assurances to Japan and South Korea that the contaminated rice had not found its way into the long-grain rice export market both countries have now apparently banned all imports of US long-grained rice. In Japan, companies have been instructed by the Government not to process or sell any U.S. long-grain rice they may already have imported in recent months. That sounds like decisive action, demonstrating a commendable commitment to the Precautionary Principle.
In Europe, in contrast, the EC and the national authorities appear determined to take no action against the US or Bayer CropScience if they can possibly avoid it. More than three weeks have now elapsed since the contamination incident. During that time, contaminated rice shipments will almost certainly have come into European ports, as they have probably done throughout the last five years. The EC was notified of the incident on 18 August. After a relaxing weekend, on 22 August, the EC said that it had contacted Bayer and the U.S. authorities for more information about the unauthorized rice variety, with a view to establishing whether it might have found its way into any shipments destined for European markets. There was no great sign of urgency. "We have to do what we can to make sure the rice doesn't come onto our market," said spokeswoman Antonia Mochan. She did not specify how customs officials would detect contaminated rice imports, but it is reasonable to assume that the Commission's Joint Research laboratory is trying to define accurate detection methods -- and to obtain valid reference samples -- with the dubious assistance of U.S. officials and Bayer representatives (10).
Bt10 all over again
GM Free Cymru is furious that no lessons appear to have been learned from the Bt10 incident which made world headlines last year (11). On that occasion Syngenta, the US authorities and the EC were all involved in lies, deception and media manipulation on a truly sickening scale. They misled the public and the media as to the real scale of the incident, sought to bury away information that should have been in the public domain, and consistently connived to underplay the significance of the regulatory breakdown which had allowed the export of maize crops contaminated with Bt10 to spread far and wide across the globe. The US regulators did impose a pathetically small fine on Syngenta, but the EC effectively did nothing other than indicating a slight irritation and issuing a few plaintive requests for more information. Syngenta responded by treating the EC with contempt (12). The "official" testing method designed by Syngenta and its chosen laboratory, GeneScan, was probably designed to ensure false negatives. The company has still not provided adequate Bt10 reference material to the JRC after the passage of 18 months or more, and the characteristics of Bt10 have still not been adequately described for independent scientists although there are no grounds for commercial confidentiality. In Britain there was so much buck-passing between DEFRA, FSA and the regulatory authorities (ACRE and ACNFP) that members of the public could not work out what had happened to it. The level of inactivity was so serious that GM Free Cymru made a formal complaint about the negligence of the FSA to the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt (13). The Bt10 episode was characterised by corruption, fraudulent science and an abject refusal by the EC to take any effective action against Syngenta in spite of the millions of euros which the incident cost the taxpayer.
Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Brian John says: "What lessons has the EC learned from the Bt10 fiasco? Probably none at all -- but we hope we will be pleasantly surprised. At the very least, we want the Commission to immediately ban all rice imports from the USA, to stop the processing and marketing of all US rice stocks held by importers and processors, and to insist on the full disclosure of the genetic makeup of LL601 as it was and is. Adequate reference materials must be provided by Bayer. Almost certainly the GM rice variety will not have the same structure today as it did in 2001. The EC must also obtain full information on any safety testing done on the variety, and it must make that information public. And above all else it must stop behaving in the venal and despicable manner which we saw last year in the Bt10 fiasco. It is high time that the EC started to get tough with the GM corporations whose intention is initially to contaminate the whole of the world's food supply with GM components and then to take total control of the farming industry."
(2) U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Statement on Report of Bioengineered Rice in the Food Supply CFSAN/Office of Food Additive Safety August 18 2006 http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
The USDA complacency should come as no surprise. In a recent case in Hawaii, a US district judge called USDA's regulatory heedlessness "arbitrary and capricious" and "an unequivocal violation of a clear congressional mandate." That echoes similar conclusions reached by the USDA's own auditors last year. After reviewing two years of records, the auditors concluded that the agency's biotechnology regulators overlooked violations of their own rules, failed to inspect sites and did not assure that genetically engineered crops were destroyed after field trials. In some cases, regulators did not even know the locations of trials.
(3) Statement by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Regarding Genetically Engineered Rice USDA, August 18 2006 Release No. 0307.06 http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2006/08/0307.xml
(4) The samples came from storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri. But trace amounts of the contaminant have been found across the rice belt, according to Bill Reed, spokesman for Riceland Foods in Stuttgart, Ark. "This is a situation not limited to a state or a farmer or a producer or a handler. It's a situation for Southern long-grain rice." http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/business/article/0,1426,MCA_440_4933927,00.html
(5) Lies in South Korea as part of the reassurance campaign: http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/biz/200608/kt2006082020574511910.htm
Beckett is blamed as Bayer bins GM plan, March 30, 2004. Bayer Cropscience is giving up attempts to commercialise GM maize - the only transgenic plant to have approval for widespread cultivation. Bayer said that the seed variety Chardon LL has been left "economically non-viable" because of conditions Margaret Beckett, environment secretary, imposed when she gave it limited approval.
(11) Syngenta's Corporate Crimes -- including a summary of the Bt10 incident and the appalling negligence of the EC: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6567
(12) Having failed to obtain assurances as to the validity of the GeneScan test for the unauthorised presence of Bt10 in maize shipments, GM Free Cymru wrote this on 30th July 2006 to Dr Guy Van den Eede of the Joint Research Laboratory: "....... as we suspected, the GeneScan test for Bt10 is inadequate for testing for the presence of Bt10 contamination in the bulk of European shipments of maize and maize products 2001-2004, and (through the use of very recent reference material) was probably carefully designed by Syngenta and GeneScan to provide "false negatives" as a part of their reassurance campaign. It also confirms that you have no grounds for assuming that Bt10 was uniform and stable; we suspect that Syngenta knows perfectly well that Bt10 was non-uniform and unstable, which may be why the Bt10 lines were discontinued. There is a final and more worrying comment which we wish to make. This sorry business shows that Syngenta (and Monsanto and the other GM corporations) can play fast and loose with the JRC and the EC through the partial and selective provision of information, and can indulge in scientific fraud where it suits them, with complete confidence that no action will be taken against them. This is an appalling state of affairs, given that there have been massive breaches of Directive 2001/18 by Syngenta which should have been massively punished by the EC."