GE Rice Scare Shows Vulnerability of Food Supply / LL601 is probably in Californian rice (25/8/2006)

1.TRADE: GE Rice Scare Shows Vulnerability of Food Supply
2.LL601 is probably in Californian rice as well

1.TRADE: GE Rice Scare Shows Vulnerability of Food Supply
Emad Mekay
Inter Press Service News Agency, August 25 2006

WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (IPS) - The revelation that commercial rice in the United States was found to be contaminated with an unlicensed genetically engineered strain shows how easily the food supply in the United States and in countries importing U.S. food can be tainted, watchdog groups say.

The long grain rice that was found to contain trace amounts of genetically engineered (GE) Liberty Link Rice 601, produced by the agro-chemical giant Bayer CropScience and never intended for commercial release, was immediately banned in Japan.

The United States is responsible for 12 percent of the global rice trade and many countries rely on U.S. rice to feed their people.

The main importers of U.S. rice are Mexico, Central America, Saudi Arabia, Canada and South Africa. Long grain rice, the type that was contaminated, comprises 80 percent of U.S. rice exports.

"Clearly there are a lot of countries that could be impacted here," said Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Centre for Food Safety in Washington. "I think quite a lot of these countries are in Latin America and they should be concerned about this."

"With genetically engineered crops, you can have unintended, unpredictable effects that can have impacts on human health or the environment," Freese added.

The 601 strain is one of several products designed to resist certain types of herbicides but is not yet approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world.

A Bayer spokesperson was not immediately available on Thursday but the company said in a statement it was cooperating with the USDA and said the protein used in the 601 strain was safe.

"The protein is well known to regulators and has been confirmed safe for food and feed use in a number of crops by regulators in many countries, including the EU, Japan, Mexico, U.S. and Canada," the statement said.

Washington has strongly defended the Bayer product. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said this week the contamination posed no risk to human health, food safety or the environment.

"The protein found in LL RICE 601 is approved for use in other products," Johanns said.

The United States says that GE crops have been developed with the benefit of the consumer in mind. But the Centre for Food Safety accused the USDA of complacency in regulating the powerful biotech industry.

"The USDA is an agency out of control," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Centre for Food Safety. "USDA's continuing failure to adequately regulate and monitor field testing of genetically engineered crops clearly puts the environment and public health at risk."

Since 1996, the USDA has granted at least 48 permits authorising Bayer or companies it has acquired, such as Aventis and AgrEvo, to plant over 4,000 acres of experimental GE rice.

"The extent to which pollen or grains from these field trials have contaminated commercial rice or related weedy species such as red rice is unknown. USDA policies do not provide for the testing of fields adjacent to field test sites to detect possible contamination with the experimental genetically engineered crop," said the Centre for Food Safety.

Last year, Japan and the European Union banned U.S. maize imports following a GE contamination scandal in which Washington had relied on similar self-reporting by the agro-business giants.

But this time, and despite the international outcry, the European Commission said it would only impose testing and certification requirements on imports of U.S. long grain rice.

International environmentalists and green groups who fear contamination of the global food chain, in part because of the low cost of GE rice compared to GE-free brands, argue that the EC should have banned the rice.

"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," said Jeremy Tager of Greenpeace International, which has called for a ban on U.S. GE rice.

The group criticised the EC for its response and said that rice is the world's most important staple food and further contamination could have catastrophic results. It wants the EC to identify countries and products that are at high risk of contaminating food supplies with illegal or dangerous GE organisms.

There were also calls for major importing regions such as the Americas, Africa and the Middle East to take similar steps immediately until the U.S. can guarantee that its rice supply is no longer contaminated.

"A message needs to be sent to the U.S. 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," said Tager.

"Countries that import U.S. rice, such as the EU, Mexico, Brazil and Canada, must become serious about preventing this kind of threat to our food supplies by banning any imports of GE rice, removing all contaminated food from supermarket shelves and rejecting applications for the commercial cultivation of rice," he said.

GE products can tolerate drought conditions and herbicides, resist insects and viruses, and provide enhanced quality and nutrition for consumers, the industry says. But those assertions are hotly contested by food safety and consumer groups.

The United States produces more than 100 commercial varieties of rice valued at almost 1.9 billion dollars, according to the USDA. About half of all U.S. production is exported.

The USDA estimates that in 2006, 61 percent of the corn, 83 percent of the cotton and 89 percent of the soybeans planted in the United States were biotech varieties.

Over 70 percent of processed foods on grocery store shelves in the U.S. contain ingredients and oils from biotech crops. (END/2006)

2.LL601 is probably in Californian rice as well

The plot thickens even more.......

Dr Brian John [email protected]

From an examination of the Bayer 1998 petition for the deregulation of LL62 and LL06 rice:

It is clear that of the many LL rice lines tested by Bayer, LL06 was intended for Californian conditions (medium grain rice) and LL62 for the southern states. There were many field trials in widely

dispersed locations in 1997 and 1998 in California. Some of these are listed on pp 42 etc (Tables V1 - V6) of the Petition. Can't find any mention of LL601 as a tested variety, but it was probably one of four (out of 36 lines tested) that underperformed or had some other defect and was then abandoned.

There were also field tests in Puerto Rico and Louisiana -- and by the look of it, Arkansas and Missouri.

Since most of the development work on LL601 appears to have been done in California, presumably from 06 as a parent line, it is highly likely that Californian medium grain rice is now contaminated with LL601 and with various other abandoned GM lines. Nobody knows how extensive this contamination is, because there is no testing.

Furthermore, since no reference materials or genetic characterisations have been provided by Bayer for LL601 and the other redundant varieties, nobody knows what to look for or how to do the tests. Very convenient.

Net result of all this? Californian medium grain rice is probably just as heavily contaminated as long-grain rice from the southern states -- and the Japanese confidence that Californian rice is "clean" is probably misplaced.



Petition no: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/98_32901p.pdf

06-234-01p Bayer CropScience
HT-Phosphinothricin tolerant
Received: 22-AUG-2006
Status: Pending
Bayer CropScience
Glufosinate tolerant

*** Extension of Petition Number: Under 7CFR 340.6(e) a person may request that APHIS extend a determination of non-regulated status to other organisms based on their similarity of the previously deregulated article. This column lists the previously granted petition of that degregulated article.

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