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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

December, 2006

 

GM Rice Contaminates European Market
By Mercede Ramjerdi

Why is genetically modified rice being sent to Europe even though it is clearly illegal?
Europe imports about 20,000 tons of long grain rice from the US every month. The Continent has always imported rice from the US and farmers in the states depend on the European market.
In recent years the US has started to explore genetically modified plants. When Bayer CropScience, made proposals for tests, the US allowed practice trials of genetically modified long grain rice strain LL 601. The GM rice strain LL 601 was reported being grown in Crowley, Texas from 1999-2001. This rice was grown on open land. The rice spread into neighboring rice crops due to wind and the ground water. Some local farmers that had their crops contaminated with LL 601, were the same farmers that produce rice being exported to Europe.

Bayer CropScience did not take necessary precautions to contain this new rice strain. Local farmers confirm they have been contaminated and crops that are not wanted are appearing in fields.

Eventually, the rice was shipped to Europe labeled as not genetically modified. In fact the crop did contain the rice strain LL 601. The European Union had detected this rice and decided to halt all rice shipments from the US. The European Commission arranged for the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) to perform tests on the rice strain. On September 15, 2006 the EFSA came to the conclusion that the long grain rice strain LL 601 could not be considered safe.

From the beginning, European countries opposed genetically modified foods. The counties believe it is not possible to know the outcome of raising these plants and animals. Europe also opposes genetically modified food because these plants and animals that have been altered could potentially be dangerous to humans when consumed.

Shortly after the illegalization of the rice strain LL 601, the European Union found ways to control and test all US long grain rice imports that enter Europe. The EU has now established a system making certification necessary for each US rice shipment. This assures that all US rice is properly tested for contamination.

Due to growing concern about GM foods, beginning in September, 2006 European countries, including Germany, decided to recall all US long grain rice. This will continue until the US has properly destroyed the genetically modified rice strand LL 601. Europe is getting its rice from countries outside the US and will no longer purchase US rice.

It is up to the US to correct the contamination. Many American citizens doubt that this country's government cares enough to prosecute the person or people responsible, not to mention taking action to stop the further spread of genetically modified long grain rice.

Jeremy Tager a Greenpeace International GM campaigner says, "Countries that import US rice, such as the EU, Mexico, Brazil, and Canada must become serious about preventing this kind of threat to our food supplies by banning all imports of GM rice, removing all contaminated food from supermarket shelves, and rejecting applications for the commercial cultivation of GM rice."

You can help! Only buy rice from stores that you know do not carry genetically modified foods. This will protect you and the environment.



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