USDA Urged to Deny Approval of Illegal GE Rice (14/9/2006)

1.USDA Urged to Deny Approval of Illegal GE Rice - CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY
2.Tell USDA not to Approve Illegal GE Rice! - TAKE ACTION
3.Consumer group urges USDA not to approve GMO rice - REUTERS
4.French tests reveal banned GMO in more than a third of samples - AFP

EXCERPT: "USDA's stamp of approval to genetically engineered rice after it has illegally contaminated the food supply would set a dangerous precedent, rewarding the biotech industry's negligence and thereby making similar contamination episodes more likely in the future." (item 1)

Links to legal petition and summary mentioned in item 1 at the end of that item.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 14, 2006

USDA Urged to Deny Approval of Illegal Genetically Engineered Rice Found in Food Chain

Legal Petition Calls for Banning All 'LibertyLink' Rice as Plant Pests

Today, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that seeks to prevent the post hoc approval of an illegal genetically engineered rice recently found in the world's food supply.  On August 22nd, Bayer CropScience sought an after-the-fact USDA rubber stamp for the illegal rice, known as LLRICE601.  The contamination episode has triggered major disruptions to U.S. rice exports, caused substantial losses to farmers as rice prices plummet, and exposed consumers to an inadequately tested genetically engineered crop.  The CFS petition presents both legal and scientific grounds as to why USDA should deny Bayer's request.

Granting the petition would also force USDA to rescind approvals already granted to two similar LibertyLink rice varieties, LLRICE06 and LLRICE62.  CFS demonstrates that these varieties as well as LLRICE601 should be deemed "plant pests" because they will contaminate conventional and organic rice, create difficult-to-control weeds, lead to increased chemical residues on rice, and cause economic harm to U.S. rice farmers.  Though approved by USDA in 1999, LLRICE06 and LLRICE62 are not (knowingly) grown anywhere in the world due to universal opposition from the rice and food industries.

"USDA's failure to protect farmers and consumers from the risks of gene-spliced rice has already caused massive problems for the U.S. rice industry," said Miyoko Sakashita, staff attorney at Center for Food Safety and lead author of the petition.

Last month, the U.S. rice industry was jolted by news of illegal LLRICE601 in the food supply.  In response, Japan banned all long-grain rice from the U.S., while the European Union now tests U.S. rice shipments and rejects any contaminated with LLRICE601.  The Secretary of the Arkansas Agriculture Department recently stated that "almost all" tested samples of long-grain rice, grown in the Southern rice belt, were turning up positive for LLRICE601 [1].  The European Union recently announced that 33 of 162 rice samples have tested positive for LLRICE601.  Louisiana State University has found LLRICE601 contaminating a publicly-developed foundation seed line.  Foundation seed is the genetically pure breeder stock from which all commercial lines of the same variety are derived.

"The only chance of preventing a repeat of the LLRICE601 contamination debacle is for USDA to grant the requests in our petition," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of CFS.  "Rejection of our petition by USDA would represent a betrayal of U.S. rice farmers and American agriculture."

LibertyLink rice is engineered with a bacterial gene to survive application of glufosinate, the active ingredient in Bayer's proprietary Liberty herbicide.  The inevitable transfer of the glufosinate-resistance gene to weedy red rice – already among the worst weeds in the Southern rice belt – via cross-pollination threatens creation of "superweeds."  Glufosinate-resistant weeds would also be created by the increased use of Liberty anticipated with commercial plantings of LibertyLink rice.

Contamination of the rice supply with any variety of LibertyLink rice would likely trigger the same market rejection and economic losses just experienced with LLRICE601, as no LibertyLink varieties are approved anywhere in the world outside of the U.S.  Even the threat of contamination of conventional and organic rice could cause further huge export losses for U.S. rice farmers.

The petition also notes that increased use of Liberty would mean more chemical residues in rice, citing a 2003 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to permit glufosinate residues on transgenic rice, a decision taken in response to a petition by Bayer CropScience.  Finally, the petition notes that no variety of LibertyLink rice has been adequately tested to detect potentially hazardous side effects of genetic engineering.
"European and international food safety agencies acknowledge the need for comprehensive testing of genetically engineered foods for hazardous side effects, including animal feeding trials with the GE crop," said Mendelson.  "Only the U.S. government discounts these risks, letting industry pollute the food supply while requiring virtually nothing to protect the public from these risky experimental foods," he added.

"USDA's stamp of approval to genetically engineered rice after it has illegally contaminated the food supply would set a dangerous precedent, rewarding the biotech industry's negligence and thereby making similar contamination episodes more likely in the future," said Sakashita.

Note to editors:

[1]  "Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture addresses GMO rice situation," Delta Farm Press, August 29, 2006.  http://deltafarmpress.com/news/060829-arkansas-gmo/

The full petition and an executive summary are available at:
http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/LLRice_ExecSum9.13.06.pdf  and

Miyoko Sakashita, 415-826-2770 ext. 303
Joe Mendelson, 202-547-9359 ext. 12
2.Tell USDA *NOT* to Approve Illegal, GE Rice!
Take action: http://ga3.org/campaign/LLRice
3.Consumer group urges USDA not to approve GMO rice
By Christopher Doering
Reuters News Service, Sep 14, 2006

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A controversial genetically modified rice strain found in commercial supplies last month should not be approved by the U.S. Agriculture Department, which a consumer group said on Thursday has failed to adequately protect farmers and consumers.

The Center for Food Safety filed a petition with USDA asking it to instead regulate the rice as a "plant pest" under the Plant Protection Act. The center said the rice, known as LLRICE 601, could further contaminate commercial rice, damage trade, create herbicide resistant weeds and increase chemical residue on rice.

"USDA's stamp of approval to genetically engineered rice after it has illegally contaminated the food supply would set a dangerous precedent, rewarding the biotech industry's negligence and thereby making similar contamination episodes more likely in the future," said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney at Center for Food Safety and lead author of the petition.

The Food and Drug Administration and USDA notified the public on August 18 that testing by Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG, found the genetically modified rice in bins in Arkansas and Missouri.

USDA has said there are no environmental or health concerns with the genetically modified rice and it does not plan to recall or destroy the contaminated commercial product.

In order for a product to be sold commercially, the genetically modified crop must be tested extensively by the manufacturer before the application is reviewed by USDA. The department is collecting public comments on LLRICE 601 until October 10.

"The purpose of this process is to invite public comment and we welcome any science-based information that might be relevant to the final assessment of the product," said Kristin Scuderi, USDA's deputy press secretary. "We will carefully review all comments submitted during this process before making a final determination."

The genetically engineered rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds. There are two other Bayer CropScience genetically modified rice lines with Liberty Link that have been confirmed safe for use in food and the environment, but they have not been commercialized.

After the discovery in August, Japan banned imports of U.S. long grain rice. The European Union, which confirmed the unauthorized strain earlier this week, requires certification that long grain rice from the United States is free of the unapproved crop.
4.French tests reveal banned GMO in US rice imports
Agence France Presse, September 14, 2006

— AFP: France has discovered traces of a banned genetically modified strain of rice in imports from the US, French market and consumer regulator DGCCRF has said.

The regulator said Thursday that traces of the LL601 strain of rice, which has been banned by the 25-nation European Union, had been detected in seven out of 19 samples tested.

"At this stage, the results reveal the absence of GMO in 12 samples and the presence of the LL601 strain of rice, at a level less than 0.1 percent, in seven samples," the regulator said in a statement.

The results are from samples taken from French importers accounting for more than 90 percent of rice imports from the United States.

The DGCCRF was alerted by the European Commission, which in turn had been informed by US authorities about the risk of a possible contamination.

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