GM Watch Special on the rice scandal (19/9/2006)

This GM Watch Special is brought to you to keep you abreast of the rapidly evolving illegal GM rice scandal.

In the UK the scandal was splashed across the front page of The Independent on Sunday today (17 September) with the headline - GM: THE COVER UP.

BBC bulletins have also been covering the news that Friends of the Earth (FoE) has said it will start a legal challenge against the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) over the sale of GM rice in UK supermarkets. FoE has found evidence of illegal GM contamination in the rice on supermarket shelves. (Legal challenge plan over GM rice)

Peter Ainsworth, the UK's shadow Environment Secretary, has described the FSA's failure to take robust action as "a massive scandal" and has said it "smelt of a cover-up". In a leading article The Independent on Sunday concurs with that analysis. (Time to guard the shelves)

A former biotech specialist at the US government's Environmental Protection Agency, Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, is quoted in the Sunday Herald as saying, "Risks should not be taken with public health for the convenience of companies or of government," and that on the basis of the incomplete evidence currently available, "I wouldn't eat it myself."

The painful economic impact of the illegal GM rice crisis has also been getting attention courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and papers in the US. http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7035

What is being described as "a catastrophe" for rice farmers is only the latest instance of major economic damage being inflicted by the GM industry.

Thanks to GM, American farmers have already suffered the loss of their corn export market to the EU, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. US soybean exports to the EU, historically America's most lucrative overseas market, have also now "dropped to almost economically insignificant levels". http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6994

The Wall Street Journal reports that the latest GM contamination scandal is not just hitting farmers. It's also proving a major headache for importers and the food industry: "Companies are struggling to find reliable suppliers and to avoid legal suits by testing their product lines," "food importers may face costly legal challenges".

And it's likely to get even worse. The contamination of US rice started with GM rice field trails that finished years ago. There are huge numbers of barely regulated GM trials that have been going on in America, including a large amount of GM crops that produce pharmaceuticals or industrial chemicals:

"This year, 181 acres in eight states were planted with crops that produce pharmaceuticals or industrial chemicals, according to Rachel Iadicicco, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service." www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/business/15535999.htm

And in addition to all those acres this year, there are also all the trials that have happened in the past. How much US produce is contaminated already, but not yet detected? Crops are known to have been contaminated in the past.

(The Three Mile Island of Biotech?)

We're fast reaching a point where all food out of the US is going to be regarded as a potential major liability. And China with its own illegal GM rice contamination scandal looks in danger of gaining an equally damaging reputation.

EXCERPTS: "The rice scare underlines problems facing food companies and biotech firms world-wide... techniques for stopping biotech crops crossing into the food chain by accident are imperfect. Companies are struggling to find reliable suppliers and to avoid legal suits by testing their product lines... Farmers, importers and biotech firms are beginning to feel the sting." - THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"This is bad news for Arkansas... It is the state's main farm export, adding about $1.55 billion yearly to the economy and generating an estimated 20,000 jobs..." - THE ECONOMIST

"This is a catastrophe for Missouri rice farmers" - ST LOUIS ATTORNEY DON DOWNING

"Prices farmers can expect for their rice dropped more than $1 per 100 pounds after discovery of the modified rice in late August." - THE SOUTH EAST MISSOURIAN

"The Missouri and Arkansas farmers that I represent are very concerned that this fifteen percent loss in the price of rice will be permanent." - ST LOUIS ATTORNEY DON DOWNING


The US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) has initiated fast-track market approval of Bayer's illegal GM rice variety - LL601 - that has contaminated long-grain rice, throwing rice markets int

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