|US rushes test for GMO rice amid skittish market (22/8/2006)|
1.US rushes test for GMO rice amid skittish market
COMMENT: Dr Brian John, who carefully monitored the handling of the Bt10 contamination fiasco, tells us, "I am increasingly convinced that [Bayer's rogue GM rice] LL601 was unstable and non-uniform (and also yielded very poorly), which is why it was discontinued five years ago. The same scenario as Bt10. Expect similar skulduggery when it comes to the establishment of a test for identifying it in imports." Brian believes there is evidence that the test for Bt10 that was designed with the help of Syngenta produced false negatives.
1.US rushes test for GMO rice amid skittish market
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - U.S. government scientists are rushing to certify a test that would identify an unapproved genetically modified rice that has slipped into commercial supplies, an inspection official said on Tuesday.
Work is being done quickly in an effort to ease fears of U.S. rice customers who don't want the experimental strain mixed into their supplies.
"We're very close. Very shortly we should be able to provide the marketplace with the analysis they need," Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration Deputy Administrator David Shipman said in an interview.
Shipman said a valid test could be ready for the market within a few days, possibly as early as Wednesday, the day the European Union is expected to launch measures to ensure that the unauthorized rice, known as LLRICE 601, does not enter consumer markets there.
The 25-country European Union is a large importer of U.S. long grain rice, buying about 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice last year, with 85 percent of that long grain rice. No genetically modified (GMO) rice is authorized for import or sale within the EU.
"There are countries that are interested in knowing whether rice being shipped to them contains this 601," said Shipman. "Having this methodology will allow an exporter to ... verify for the buyer it doesn't contain, or does contain, that particular event."
In terms of the time frame for making such a test available, Shipman said: "We're looking at days and maybe not even plural."
GIPSA began working with Bayer CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG, about two weeks ago after U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities learned on July 31 that Bayer's unapproved, experimental GMO rice had been found in rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri.
Bayer supplied GIPSA with reference material and methodology it uses to distinguish the 601 strain and GIPSA's goal is to validate the company's specific testing methods for commercial use, said Shipman.
Bayer spokesman Greg Coffey had no comment on the status of GIPSA's work. But he said Bayer was also "supporting several commercial laboratories in setting up a testing method for industry use if requested."
The 601 contamination marks the first time that unmarketed genetically unauthorized biotech rice had been detected in long-grain samples targeted for commercial use. And Bayer has not disclosed specifically how it became aware of the contamination.
Japan, for which the United States is the largest rice exporter, has already suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice.
Rice futures slid to a two-week low on the Chicago Board of Trade on Tuesday on concerns about the U.S.'s rice export business.
U.S. authorities say the GMO strain poses no risk to public health or the environment. But anti-biotech activists say this is but the latest in a long list of examples of flawed government oversight of potentially harmful transgendered crops.
2.Japan rice ban worries some California farmers
SACRAMENTO A recent Japanese ban of long-grain rice from the United States has set off alarm among California farmers and added fuel to a debate over genetically modified rice.
On one side, some farmers and industry groups say the ban does not pose a direct threat to California's crop, which is almost entirely short- and medium-grain rice. They add that the state's tightly regulated system for the introduction of any new rice variety has protected its products from the sort of contamination that prompted Japan's decision.
But others worry that restrictions on the biotech industry are insufficient, and that contamination is a near certainty in a state where hundreds of crops are grown in close proximity.
"Biotech does not recognize a fence line where one farmer's property ends and another begins," said Bryce Lundberg, a rice grower with Lundberg Family Farms.
The farm, based near Chico in the northern Sacramento Valley, supports keeping California free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Lundberg said the situation surrounding the Japanese rice ban "points at the heart of the reason the farm opposes them."
Japan on Saturday suspended U.S. long-grain rice imports after supplies were found to contain trace amounts of a genetically engineered variety that is not approved for sale.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday that the contamination had been found in samples from storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri, but that the exact source had not been identified because the bins held rice from several Southern states.
Japan is the biggest foreign market for California rice a $500 million industry that relies on exports for 50 percent of annual sales.
Japanese consumers have a long-standing aversion to biotechnology and any changes to their food supply. A ban on U.S. beef over fears of mad cow disease was lifted just a few weeks ago.
"Three of our top markets Japan, Taiwan and North Korea are very clear on their position on genetically engineered crops," said Renata Brillinger of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, a coalition of environmental groups and family and organic farms. "And Japan is very influential over decisions that Taiwan and North Korean markets make."
Brillinger and others say that although it is business as usual right now for the California rice industry, any future contamination of the crop by GMOs could have an immediate and severe economic impact.
The state's farmers produce nearly 2 million tons of rice annually, making California the second largest rice-growing state in the nation behind Arkansas. Rice is produced on about 500,000 acres, primarily in the Sacramento Valley.
The crop is primarily self-pollinated, so the likelihood of cross-pollination is small, Brillinger said. But every stage from harvesting to stocking supermarket shelves is highly consolidated, she said, and therefore risky.
"Contamination is inevitable," she said. "It's just a matter of when and how."
Kent McKenzie, director of the Rice Experiment Station, sees much less cause for alarm.
"This material has never been grown in the fields of California," he said of the aberrant rice found in the South.
The experiment station, in a small town south of Chico, is a nonprofit research foundation owned by the state's rice growers. On Monday, it sent material from its seed stocks to be tested for contamination at independent testing labs after a request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. McKenzie said he expected results within a week.
McKenzie and Tim Johnson, president of the California Rice Commission, credited a landmark state law with maintaining a separation between normal rice and genetically modified rice in recent years.
The California Rice Certification Act of 2000 helped establish rice industry regulations to avoid mixing different varieties. It also formed an advisory board that approves and creates protocols for any new rice introduced into California. It is the only such regulation for any crop in any state.
As a result, "we know of no commercially grown genetically modified rice produced in California today," said Johnson, whose commission operates under the supervision of the state agriculture secretary.
Opponents of genetically modified organisms say that could change quickly and that certain stringent conditions must be put in place.
Interest groups such as the Rice Producers of California and California Certified Organic Farmers have established a set of standards they say must be met in order for GMOs to enter the rice market safely. Those include labeling standards to identify products containing GMOs; legal recourse for farmers if their crops are contaminated; and rigorous precautions throughout the harvesting, processing and distribution phases to maintain total isolation of genetically engineered materials.
Both sides in the debate over bio-engineered rice acknowledge that it is not a black-and-white issue. Ultimately, they share the same overall goal: to ensure that whatever the future of California rice looks like, farmers are protected.
"We recognize the potential future benefits of biotech for both consumers and rice farmers," said Greg Massa, a rice grower in Glenn and Colusa counties and the co-chairman of the Rice Producers of California. "What we want is to make sure farmers' interests are taken care of first."
Massa said incidents such as the contamination found in the southern rice show there still is a long way to go before farmers can feel secure.
"We just want to make sure biotech is done right," he said. "Stuff like this, this is not doing it right."
3.India May Move In On Japanese Rice Market
New Delhi, India (AHN) - The U.S. will no longer export rice to Japan as lawmakers overseas fight the importation of genetically modified food.
According to the Financial Express, unapproved, gene-modified rice made by Bayer CropScience AG, was found in commercial U.S. rice supplies last week following which Japan, the second largest importer of rice from the US, announced a ban.
Now, India is positioned to sell 300,000 to 400,000 tons of non-basmati rice to Japan. Japan is slowly opening up to Indian trade, recently it began allowing mangoes.
Now, after previously buying 291,000 tons of rice from the U.S. last year, Japan will have to quickly find a new supply.
Anil Monga, managing director, Emmsons International, a star trading house tells the newspaper, "There is a huge opportunity for India to tap and export non-basmati rice to Japan. India has never exported rice to Japan before, so the quality parameters will have to be checked."