EU chases GMO-tainted rice strain in four countries (21/9/2006)

1.EU to boost checks on U.S. rice imports after Dutch report more illegal shipments
2.EU chases GMO-tainted rice strain in four countries

1.EU to boost checks on U.S. rice imports after Dutch report more illegal shipments
Associated Press, September 22 2006

BRUSSELS - The European Union said Thursday it would reinforce controls on U.S. long grain rice imports, after Dutch officials found an unauthorized genetically modified variety in shipments that arrived in the port of Rotterdam last month.

EU spokesman Philip Tod said the European Commission has alerted officials in Britain, France and Germany that some of the genetically modified long-grain rice may have entered their nations.

He said the imports of long-grain rice were certified as genetically unmanipulated. Yet spot checks by Dutch officials found traces of Liberty Link Rice 601, a genetically modified variety developed by Bayer CropScience AG in the United States, he said.

Tod said one shipment had been impounded in the Netherlands, another in Belgium. He could not say how much rice was involved or how much may have ended up in Britain, France, Germany and, possibly, other EU nations.

Wary of public health and environmental concerns, the EU allows only genetically modified foodstuffs that have been evaluated and authorized to be placed on the EU market.

LLRice 601 is not among them. Bayer never asked for the authorization to market LL601 in the U.S.

The onus to certify that imports comply with EU norms lies with any company that places foreign goods on the EU market.

The environmental group Greenpeace urged the EU to tell Washington "no more imports of US rice will be allowed into Europe until the US authorities have established a trustworthy certification scheme and ensured that the contamination in the US has been contained."

In the last two weeks, EU officials have twice reported illegal imports of genetically modified American rice. Last week, it said 33 out of 162 samples of rice imports contained the presence of LL Rice 601.

It was developed by Aventis CropScience, which was taken over by Germany's Bayer AG in 2002 and renamed Bayer Crop Science. Bayer announced in July it had found the 601 strain in storage units in Arkansas and Missouri.

Tod said the EU wants to know from Dutch authorities how rice certified as "negative for the presence of LLRICE601" could show positive in counter-tests.

He also said the EU would contact U.S. authorities. "We will be following up with them as soon as the situation in the Netherlands is clarified," he said.

Tod said the European Commission "intends to take further action to strengthen" the testing of imports of long grain rice for the presence of the 601 strain. He gave no details.

On Aug. 23, the Commission said that with immediate effect U.S. long grain rice imports must be tested by accredited laboratories and certified they are free of traces of LL Rice 601.

While the EU head office insists on a recall of the illegal imports it has said the presence of LLRICE601 poses no immediate health risk to humans or animals based on a review of incomplete data provided by the U.S. government and the maker of the rice variety.

2.EU chases GMO-tainted rice strain in four countries
Reuters News Service, Sep 21 2006
By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's problems with shipments of unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) rice have taken a turn for the worse as two U.S. shipments tested positive for an illegal biotech strain, the EU executive said.

The Belgian food safety agency said it was likely that some of the rice had been eaten by consumers but the food did not constitute an "imminent threat to public health."

The two bargeloads within a 20,000-tonne cargo that had passed through the Dutch port of Rotterdam in August had first tested negative for the LL Rice 601 strain, developed by Germany's Bayer AG as resistant to a herbicide.

But Dutch counter-tests contradicted those first results, European Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news briefing on Thursday, adding that EU procedures for testing U.S. long-grain rice imports would now be strengthened.

"In the light of these developments, the European Commission intends to take further action to strengthen the measure ... requiring the testing of U.S. long-grain rice imports for LL 601," he said, declining to specify what action was envisaged.

In August, the EU tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of LL Rice 601. Its decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601 in long-grain samples targeted for commercial use.

No biotech rice is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed on the territory of the 25 European Union countries.

Then, EU authorities were informed about a shipment loaded in New Orleans that arrived in Rotterdam in late August carrying the equivalent of one month's average EU imports of U.S. long-grain rice.

Later, one EU official said France, Britain, Germany and Belgium had been asked to conduct checks to trace any rice from the bargeloads. That was because the shipments were accompanied by certificates showing they were GMO-free, he said.

One of the two consignments that the Dutch tests revealed as carrying the LL Rice 601 strain is still under the control of the Dutch authorities. The other was sent to Belgium, where it is also being held by the national authorities.

A further 11 consignments that were initially certified as GMO-free were sent to Britain, France and Germany, he said.

"We have asked the authorities in those countries to carry out counter-tests," he told reporters.

"There are a lot of questions to which we don't have answers," he said. "All we know is that they were in possession of valid certificates and that is why they were released."

The Rotterdam cargo was split into 30 consignments each equating to the volume of one barge. In 2005, EU states imported 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice, of which 85 percent was long grain.

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