World's largest rice company halts all US rice imports (29/9/2006)

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World's largest rice company halts all US rice imports because of GM contamination threat
Bayer's illegal GM rice continues to inflict damage on US rice industry
For immediate release: 29th September 2006:

In yet another blow to the US rice industry, the world's largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva,(1) which controls 30% of the EU rice market, has confirmed to Greenpeace that it has stopped all imports of rice from the USA to the EU due to the threat of contamination by genetically modified (GM) rice.

The move follows a string of scandals, with illegal GM contamination found in rice products all over Europe. In January of 2006 a strain of Bayer’s GM rice, which was not approved for human consumption was found in US rice intended for export. As a result of Bayer's recklessness, the global food industry is facing massive costs associated with this contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts.

In a letter to Greenpeace(2), the Chairman of Ebro Puleva states: "We regret that US rice is facing a problem with GM rice and decided to stop any imports of US rice since August 2006."

Ebro Puleva has also indicated that it will not consider purchasing from the US until the situation is under control. Instead, the company will purchase rice from other countries, with the exception of China, which continues to have problems with GM contamination of its rice.

"By imposing a blanket ban on rice imports from the US, Ebro Puleva has acknowledged how real and costly the risk of GM contamination is," pointed out Jeremy Tager, GM campaigner, Greenpeace International. "With GM now as uneconomic as it is unacceptable, governments in countries that grow or import GM must stop placing farmers, consumers, the environment and industry at such high risk."

At least three multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US rice farmers against Bayer CropScience already, as farmers struggle to protect their livelihoods (3). Ebro Puleva has said they expect to bring legal actions against Bayer as well.

The strain of Bayer's illegal GM LL601 rice was first detected in rice intended for export from the US earlier in 2006. This variety has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has only been grown in field trials that ended in 2001, and yet in September 2006, testing commissioned by Greenpeace and then by various European government agencies showed a broad variety of products on supermarket shelves in Europe had been contaminated by Bayer's illegal GM rice. Following the Greenpeace expose a leading German supermarket chain Edeka announced that they would cease selling all US long grain rice. A number of European retailers, millers and processors have followed suit.

"It is now time for governments to respond strongly as well. They cannot leave enforcement of food safety laws to industry alone. We urge the EU to enforce its laws more vigorously and ensure that all member states comply, particularly those that have thus far refused to enforce EU law," concluded Jeremy Tager.

For further information, please contact:
Greenpeace Press Office 0207 865 8255
Or Graham Thompson, GM Campaigner, Greenpeace 0207 865 8293

1. Ebro Puleva, with a presence in 40 countries, is the first supplier of rice as a raw material for the major companies of the European food sector. It has taken over, and now owns Riviana Foods, Inc, the leading company on the US rice market, with extensive distribution networks in the United States and Central America; Kraft Foods’ rice business in Germany, Austria and Denmark; and Panzani, one of the leading food enterprises in France.

2. The letter from the Chairman is available online at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/letter-from-ebro-puleva-to-gre

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