|Euro Scientists refuse safety clearance for GM rice (16/9/2006)|
1.Euro Scientists refuse safety clearance for GM rice
EXCERPT: "The significant thing here is that this is NOT an endorsement for LL601 rice. The contamination event, which has been hushed up for months in America, is still a crime, and a retrospective provisional assessment like this does not suddenly make everything all right. Rice containing LL601 was illegal yesterday, and it is still illegal today. It is still illegal to stock it or sell it, and in our view American long-grain rice should still be taken off shelves as a prudent and precautionary measure." (item 1)
1.Euro Scientists refuse safety clearance for GM rice
In a statement just released by the GMO Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (1), the Euro scientists pointedly refuse to give a safety clearance for the unauthorised GM rice variety named LL601, which has contaminated Southern US rice products on a substantial scale (2).
Rice cargoes are "frozen" at European ports and rice mills while sampling and testing for the illegal rice variety proceeds. Thus far, at least 33 food samples have proved positive for the GM rice, and food has been taken off shelves in Germany and Switzerland following positive test results. In the Southern Unites States, where most long grain rice is grown, it appears that almost all the rice in storage from the 2005 harvest is contaminated.
No test results are being published in the US, and the Department of Agriculture is involved in a massive "reassurance" campaign, with diplomatic pressure being exerted on all importing nations to accept rice stocks whether contaminated or not. In Europe, the EC has put a precautionary measure in place, demanding that all American rice consignments entering the
EU have to be accompanied by certification proving that no GM rice is present.
The key statement in the EFSA press release is this: "According to the Statement of the Panel issued today there is insufficient data to provide a full risk assessment in accordance with EFSA's GM guidance." The statement then goes on to explain that the Panel examined the "data available" and data on a "very similar GMO rice strain" before coming to the provisional view that "the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals."
NGOs have given a cautious welcome to the EFSA Statement, and have noted that it is clearly designed to give scientific support for the EC policy of precaution and import-point testing. Dr Brian John of GM Free Cymru says;
"We do not agree with the provisional finding that contaminated rice is unlikely to cause a safety concern, since that finding is based upon assumptions, extrapolations and an admitted shortage of hard data about LL601. But for the first time we see a commendable caution in what EFSA is saying. What is even more interesting is the choice of words. EFSA is clearly furious with Bayer CropScience -- the company which has committed the contamination offence -- for failing to provide adequate data for a proper assessment to take place, and it is also not amused by being bounced into a hasty statement without adequate time for deliberation.
"The significant thing here is that this is NOT an endorsement for LL601 rice. The contamination event, which has been hushed up for months in America, is still a crime, and a retrospective provisional assessment like this does not suddenly make everything all right. Rice containing LL601 was illegal yesterday, and it is still illegal today. It is still illegal to stock it or sell it, and in our view American long-grain rice should still be taken off shelves as a prudent and precautionary measure."
2.EFSA: 'Insufficient data' for full GM risk assessment
The European food safety authority was replying to the European Commission's request for an evaluation of the unauthorised GM rice LLRICE601, which was found in samples of commercial rice on the US market.
This prompted the EU to clamp down on all imports from the US, with stringent import procedures put in place.
The GMO panel has now evaluated the available scientific data on LLRICE601.
And according to a statement issued by the panel on Friday, there is "insufficient data" to provide a full risk assessment.
However, on the basis of the available molecular and compositional data and the toxicological profile of a newly introduced protein, the panel considered that the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601 would not likely pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals.
LLRICE601 does not differ significantly from conventional rice (except for the PAT protein). However, the panel said there was a lack of data available at present to verify this assumption.
The panel statement will now be forwarded to the European Commission and Member States who are responsible for risk management measures in relation to LLRICE601.
EFSA was asked to examine the scientific data available and inform the European Commission if these data were sufficient to carry out a safety assessment according to EU legislation. EFSAs panel on genetically modified organisms (GMO) met on 13th and 14th September 2006 to consider the request of the European Commission and examine the available scientific data on the LLRICE601 issue.
EFSAs panel took into consideration all relevant scientific information, including data from Bayer Crop Science (the company which has developed LLRICE601), existing scientific data on a very similar GMO rice strain3 and risk assessments carried out by the US authorities.
EFSA is also currently carrying out a risk assessment on GM rice from Bayer Crop Science (LLRICE62), which is very similar to LLRICE601.