1.FSA TO REVIEW GM RICE CONTAMINATION
2.Defra GM Consultation Farce
TAKE ACTION: The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced the date for its official review of how it handled the GM rice contamination scandal - Thursday 29th November at 2 pm.
FSA are calling for feedback from stakeholders and inviting them to attend the review meeting in London - details at http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2007/nov/gmrice for announcement
The deadline for public and stakeholders' to send in their feedback for the review (and to notify the FSA if they are attending) is Monday 19th November.
You can also attend the meeting by contacting FSA on the same email address or by calling 020 7276 8566.
This is a really good opportunity to put pressure on the FSA to tighten up their controls on GM and put in place strong monitoring and enforcement systems to protect consumers from GM contamination and stop contaminated foods from entering the country. (For example, by ensuring testing of potentially contaminated imports at ports and responding to future incidents quickly and effectively.)
Stakeholders involved in or affected by the incident can send in their contribution for the review. This includes members of the public/consumers, as well as local authorities, MPs etc.
As individuals, you can highlight your concerns about the incident by answering questions on FSA's provision of information (complacent and negligible!) or its response in protecting consumers from contaminated GM foods (tardy and ineffectual!) as well as in the 'general comments' section of their feedback form.
1.FSA TO REVIEW GM RICE CONTAMINATION
Friends of the Earth, 6 November 2007
An official review of last year’s GM contamination incident, where illegal GM rice from the United States entered the food chain in the UK, is to be held on Thursday 29th November by the Food Standards Agency. The public and stakeholders are being invited to contribute to the review by the 19th of November .
The FSA review of the of the GM rice (LLRICE601) incident comes eight months after Friends of the Earth took the Agency to Judicial Review over its inadequate response to the contamination . The Judge ruled that although the FSA had not acted illegally, it had made a number of mistakes in its handling of the incident, including a decision not to issue a food alert and providing extremely delayed advice to Local Authorities.  At the time the FSA promised to hold a comprehensive review of the incident.
Friends of the Earth Food Campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said:
'The FSA response, to what was the most serious GM contamination incident in Britain, was entirely inadequate. We now need a thorough investigation to discover what went wrong and how UK consumers can be protected from illegal GM food in the future. The FSA must use this review to put in place new measures to ensure that incidents like this do not happen again. The conduct of the review will reflect the seriousness with which the FSA views this incident and the risks associated with GM in general.'
Friends of the Earth is urging the FSA to:
Use the review as an opportunity for a fully transparent inquiry into the incident, involving all affected stakeholders including food businesses, local food authorities, NGOs, MPs and members of the public
Ensure public trust in the outcome of the review by circulating the results widely and publishing them on the FSA website.
Publish a clear roadmap with timelines outlining how the outcomes of the review will inform future decision making
Ensure a full discussion on mistakes in the FSA process for handling the incident, but also revisit the reasons why certain decisions were taken during the incident especially with regard to the levels of risk identified and the level of response required
Review its strategy for dealing with any future incidents to ensure that consumers are protected from GM contamination
On 18 August last year, the US Department of Agriculture announced that an illegal GM rice strain, unapproved for human consumption, had contaminated long grain rice supplies destined for export. EU authorities were informed only in mid August and immediately put in place Emergency legal measures to deal with the incident. 
In its response, the FSA initially announced there were no public safety issues  associated with the LL601. It only revised its advice following an opinion by the European Food Safety Authority, which acknowledged that they were unable to say whether the rice was safe to eat. Minutes of private meetings between the food industry and FSA showed that the FSA were advising companies that it did not 'expect contaminated products already in the food supply chain to be removed from sale' and 'does not expect companies to trace products and remove them from sale' .
 See FSA website announcement http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2007/nov/gmrice
 Friends of the Earth press release ‘Food Standard Agency faces High Court challenge over illegal GM rice’ Feb 16 2007 http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/food_standards_agency_face_16022007.html
 Friends of the Earth press release ‘Ruling on legal challenge against the Food Standards Agency’ Feb 23 2007 http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/ruling_on_legal_challenge_23022007.html
 Amended Emergency Decision 2006/754/EC on emergency measures regarding the non-authorised genetically modified organism ‘LL RICE 601’ in rice products: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2006/l_306/l_30620061107en00170020.pdf
 FSA press release 1st September 2006
 Food and Drink Federation minutes of meeting with the FSA available with Friends of the Earth
Kirtana Chandrasekaran 020 7566 1669
Press Office: 020 7566 1649
2.Defra GM Consultation Farce
GM Freeze Press Release - IMMEDIATE RELEASE 8th November 2007
GM Freeze described the Ministerial Statement on the Coexistence of GM and non-GM crops made by Defra minister Phil Woolas today as a farce.
In his statement  the Minister said:
'We are grateful to everyone who responded and have considered the various comments made very carefully. It is clear that before our coexistence plans can be finalised we should await various developments that could have an important bearing on how we move forward.'
The reason listed in the statement included:
”¢ Waiting for outstanding research results
”¢ Commissioning new research
”¢ Waiting for an agreement of thresholds for GM presence in seeds
The statement acknowledged the importance of seed thresholds in making policy on coexistence, saying:
'These will dictate what level of GM material might be in the seeds sown by non-GM farmers. This in turn bears directly on what coexistence measures need to achieve, in terms of minimising the potential for further GM transfer into non-GM crops. We should await clarification of what seed thresholds are to be adopted'.
Over 11,600 people and organisations responded to Defra coexistence consultation paper in 2006. The summary of the responses which Defra published today  took a year to produce and shows widespread opposition to what Defra was proposing.
Beekeepers were particularly concerned that Defra’s proposals failed to deal with the potential impact of GM pollen in honey.
A legal opinion submitted by GM Freeze as part of the consultation response set out seven key areas where Defra proposals were not compliant with EU law .
Commenting on Phil Woolas’s Statement, Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
'We made the point in our submission to the consultation that Defra’s evidence base for their proposals was weak and that key policies like seed threshold were needed before decisions could be made about 'coexistence'. The Minister now apparently agrees with us.
'So why did Defra go ahead with the consultation in the absence of these vital bits of the jigsaw? The legal opinion GM Freeze submitted over a year ago raised serious questions about the legality of what Defra was proposing on seven counts. Instead of answering these points, the Minister has apparently decided to shelve the issue for the time being. The Government’s policy on GM crops is a farce and has been since 1997'.
1. Phil Woolas’s statement can be found at: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/ministers/statements/pw071108a.htm
2. The summary of the Coexistence Consultation responses can be found at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/crops/pdf/gmcoexist-consultresponses-summary.pdf
3. GM Freeze, Friends of the earth and The Soil association legal opinion summary can be viewed at: www.gmfreeze.org/uploads/CB2_coexistence_legal_summary.pdf and full version at: www.gmfreeze.org/uploads/4B5_coexistence_legal_opinion.pdf