|GM rice hits Switzerland / Philippines at risk / More on Germany (12/9/2006)|
1.Genetically modified rice hits Switzerland
1.Genetically modified rice hits Switzerland
The country's largest retailer Migros has confirmed finding traces of genetically modified rice, supplied from the United States, that is banned in Switzerland.
Migros says the storage silos containing the LL 601 rice have now been sealed but it is unclear whether any of the rice actually went on sale. Both Migros and rival Coop have suspended sales of long-grain rice from the US.
Migros spokesman Monica Glisenti said that traces of the unapproved rice were found after laboratory tests, adding that the concentration level was 0.01 per cent.
The legal tolerance permitted for genetically modified organisms is 0.9 per cent. However, no genetically modified rice is permitted in Switzerland, so the level is of no relevance.
Glisenti said that the LL 601 rice was found in a shipment of 1,500 tons. Long-grain rice from other countries is to remain on the shelves, she said.
She noted that examination had only been possible this week because the tests had only just become available.
As a result, it could not be ruled out that banned rice had already been sold in Switzerland.
Coop, which receives its rice from the same supplier as Migros, said it had found no traces of LL 601.
But it has also withdrawn long-grain rice from the US from the shelves, noting in a statement that contamination could not be excluded completely.
The two retailers are now waiting for advice from the Swiss Federal Health Office in Bern before taking further action. Decisions are also expected from the European Union, which has also been affected by the LL 601 rice.
The EU Commission urged EU member states and the food industry to carry out tests following the discovery of unauthorised GM rice imports in Europe.
Thirty-three out of 162 results of rice samples carried out by members of the European Federation of Rice Millers tested positive for the LL 601 strain, the European Commission said in a statement.
It also said that three bargeloads within a 20,000 metric ton US rice cargo detained in Rotterdam had tested positive, while 20 other bargeloads had tested negative.
The consignments which tested negative for the unauthorised GMO have now been allowed to proceed to their final destination, while those which tested positive continue to be detained in Rotterdam and will either be returned to the US or destroyed," the EC said.
In August, the EC tightened requirements on US long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of biotech rice strain LL 601, which it said was marketed by the Bayer company of Germany and produced in the US.
The Commission's decision followed the discovery by US authorities of trace amounts of LL 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use.
On Monday, environmental group Greenpeace International said a strain of LL 601 rice had been found in branches of discount supermarket Aldi Nord in Germany.
*Swiss voters in November accepted a proposal for a five-year blanket ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Swiss agriculture.
*The result is forcing the Swiss government to put in place some of the toughest legislation on GMOs in Europe.
The European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member, ended a six-year moratorium on accepting applications for new genetically modified foods in May 2004.
But Germany and France, two of Switzerland's neighbours, have both voted to uphold national bans on products they deem unsafe.
2.Philippines at serious risk from illegal GMO rice contamination
The Philippines is at serious risk from illegal GE (genetically-engineered) rice contamination as the international scandal around genetically-manipulated rice varieties which have not been commercially approved for human consumption grows bigger, Greenpeace warned today in a press briefing in Quezon City.
Recent Greenpeace tests reveal that illegal GE rice from the US has contaminated products on supermarket shelves in Germany. The results came a week after an earlier round of tests proved that illegal GE rice from China, which poses a potential health risk, was found present in rice products on European shelves(1). Greenpeace International has notified authorities that illegal GE rice poses health and environmental risks and called upon governments to take immediate action to protect consumers.
"The illegal GE rice scandal, however, may not be limited to Europe. In Southeast Asia rice is the staple diet. The Philippines is among the countries most at risk because we import rice and rice products from both the US and China," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia GE campaigner Daniel Ocampo.
"Greenpeace is therefore calling on the government to protect Filipino consumers by implementing strong measures to nip in the bud what may turn out to be a similar case of serious contamination in our country. These measures should include testing of rice and rice products, the immediate recall of those found positive for contamination, and demanding GE free certification for food from countries that grow and produce GE crops," Ocampo added.
Many US and Chinese rice products which are available in Philippine markets and supermarket shelves may be affected by contamination. These products can range from rice noodles to breakfast cereals to baby food. The country also imports sacks of rice from US and China, and receives several tons of US surplus rice regularly under a food aid program, PL-480.
The recent rice contamination in China began with field trials of GE rice not currently approved for commercial growing because of mounting concerns over its safety. The illegal GE rice, genetically engineered to be resistant to insects, contains a protein or fused protein (Cry1Ac) that has reportedly induced allergic-like reactions in mice. Three independent scientists with expertise in the field of GE and health have issued a statement backing the health concerns raised by Greenpeace International(2). Yet an investigation by Greenpeace in 2005 showed that research institutes and seed companies in China had been illegally selling unapproved GE rice seeds to farmers(3). Processed rice products found in supermarkets in France, UK and Germany were revealed last week to have been contaminated with Chinas illegal GE rice.
New test results by an independent laboratory released in a statement yesterday by Greenpeace Germany have also confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in US parboiled long grain rice sold in a major German supermarket chain which has 700 outlets throughout France. Bayers LL GE rice is not approved for food or cultivation anywhere in the world except within the United States and Canada. In addition, an experimental variety of LL GE rice, LL601, was found recently to be contaminating US rice.
"These findings are shocking and should trigger high-level responses. Consumers should not be left swallowing experimental GE rice that is risky to their health and the environment," said Dr. Janet Cotter from Greenpeace International's Science Unit. "Once illegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormous effort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the first place and stop any plans to commercialize GE rice."
Ocampo concluded: "The Philippines, which is signatory to the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety should moreover use the precautionary principle by not importing GMO rice and rice products. The country should also stop planting GMO rice, even in experimental plots, so that contamination is halted at all levels."
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health. Notes to Editor
(1) All tests were conducted by an accredited and independent laboratory. Details available in background briefing 'Illegal experimental GE Rice from China: Now entering Europe's Food chain'. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/IllegalChinaGErice
(2) Scientists statement from Pr. Ian F.Pryme, Dept. of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway. Pr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, Président du Conseil Scientifique, du CRII GEN, Universite de Caen, France. Dr. Christian Velot, Conseil Scientifique du CRII GEN, Institut de Genetique et, Microbiologie, Universite Paris-Sud, France.available at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/ScientistStatementHealthConcernsGErice
(3) Further testing indicated that the whole food chain had been contaminated, with the most recent case being the contaminated Heinz rice cereal products in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hongkong. The Chinese government, in the wake of the situation, reportedly punished seed companies and destroyed illegally grown GE rice.
3.Genetically Modified Rice Found in German Supermarkets
The European Commission has confirmed that EU imports of long-grain rice contain traces of genetically modified material. According to Greenpeace, some of it made it to the shelves of a German supermarket chain.
The European Federation of Rice Millers tested 162 shipments of rice imported from the United States. 33 of them tested positive for the genetically modified rice type known as LL-601, the European Commission said in a statement on Monday.
"Any consignments which tested positive have already been recalled or withheld from the market and the Federation's members have committed to continuing such withdrawals for any positive findings," the commission said.
Biotech rice is not allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the EU.
German consumers affected
The EU confirmation followed an announcement by environmental group Greenpeace that its tests in Germany had detected traces of genetically modified rice in products sold at the Aldi Nord chain of supermarkets.
Greenpeace genetics expert Ulrike Brendel said that the Aldi products, sold under the Bon-Ri brand, had been contaminated with a strain of rice developed by German industrial giant Bayer and tested in the United States.
"We tested the samples at a respected and independent laboratory," Brendel said. "The results show some of the rice has been modified using a method developed and published by Bayer --there's no doubt about it."
A tainted biotech product
Rice found in eight of Aldi Nord's 35 sales areas contained traces of LL-601-- a rice strain engineered by Bayer to resist certain Bayer herbicides.
Aldi Nord said documentation for the rice imports showed no signs of shipments containing genetically modified rice, but it removed the affected products from its shelves and was testing the countries of origins of other similar products.
The European Commission's findings suggested GM material had been finding its way into the European market for some time. Considering that Germany imports about one quarter of its rice from the US, Brendel thought it was inevitable that a number of products and supermarket chains would be affected.
"This modified strain of rice was planted in the US in 2001, but only as a test crop," Brendel said. "The fact we're finding it here in imports shows that industry isn't capable of controlling genetically modified crops. We don't know what human health or environmental risks involved. If we want to keep food sources free of genetically modified material, then we can't afford to plant GM crops."
Declaring war on biotech rice
Last month the European Commission slapped stringent testing requirements on rice imports from the US to try and stop genetically modified varieties from entering the 25 country-bloc.
At the end of August, Germany's federal ministry of consumer protection ordered state-level authorities to step up their detection efforts.
France and Sweden have also discovered traces of a banned genetically modified substance in imported US rice, in tests which must be confirmed by EU laboratories, a European Commission source said Tuesday.
"Two member states, France and Sweden, have found, by their own methods, positive samples of GMO," the official said. "These remain to be verified by the Commission's testing methods."
In France, seven samples out of 20 tested were found to include the unauthorized LL601 strain, the official said, on condition of anonymity.
4.Open Letter to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are concerned about the application for a marketing approval for Bayers glufosinate tolerant rice LL 62.
In the US a similar type of genetically engineered rice, LL 601, has been found in samples of supplies destined for human consumption. Bayer field tested the LL 601 variety between 1998 and 2001, but it is unclear how the present contamination occured. Like LL 62 this rice trait is tolerant to Bayer´s weedkiller Liberty Link. LL Rice 601 has not been tested for safety for human consumption and was never authorised by regulators.
Nevertheless LL Rice 601 now found its way into the European Union's retail food sector and appeared for sale at branches of the German discount supermarket Aldi. So even after more than 10 years of trials, the biotech industry is not able to guarantee the coexistence of GM and non-GM crops. The incident shows that risks linked with modified rice can't be controlled in the long term. Bayer´s environmental risk assessment and monitoring plan for LL Rice 62 do not give sufficient consideration to the possibility of the escape of this GM organism through accidental spillage of grains in southern Europe, where rice could grow and contaminate non GM crops.
An authorization would not only be a threat to European consumers but also to farmers and the environment in developing countries. Rice is the staple food for more than one-half of the world's population. The decision by the European Union with respect to this GM rice will be extremely influential in countries with limited resources to undertake their own regulatory review.
A European approval of GM rice would allow Bayer to promote GM rice cultivation in developing countries, especially in Asia. This could lead to genetic contamination of existing rice cultivation in the centres of origin and diversity and could jeopardise biodiversity and thus the principal food source in the developing world. The negative impact would fall most heavily on the most vulnerable, the rural poor.
Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament states that EU member countries must "ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to avoid adverse effects on human health and the environment which might arise from the deliberate release or the placing on the market of GMOs." Therefore we call for the stringent application of the precautionary principle with regard to GM rice. We urge you not to approve LL Rice 62 for imports to the EU. There is insufficient evidence that Liberty Link Rice will not cause adverse effects to human health and the environment.
Open Letter to the 25 EU Member States: Reject Bayer's application to import genetically modified rice into the EU http://www.cbgnetwork.com/300.html