GM Rice Contamination Remains a Mystery Lack of Records Hampers Investigation
Immediate release (8 Oct 2007)
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065
Official US investigations into the cause of the GM contamination of long grain rice in 2006 have drawn a blank. Lack of long terms records has hampered the investigation by the USA’s regulatory authorities .
Despite 8700 hours of staff time and visits to 11 States and Puerto Rico, which involved USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) taking 396 samples of rice by the, the mystery of how stocks of long grain rice became contaminated with an experimental GM rice developed by Bayer CropScience (known as LL601) remains unsolved:
Investigators had hoped to identify how each GE rice line entered the commercial rice supply, but the exact mechanism for introduction could not be determined.
However, with a second rice contamination incident involving another Bayer GM experimental rice (LL604) it was concluded that “the most likely entry point for LLRICE604 into CL131 was through a means other than direct crosspollination” but still the “means of incursion of the LLRICE604 gene into the CL131 variety was not determined”.
APHIS has decided not to prosecute Bayer CropScience for either of the incidents which arose from test sites for LL601 and LL604 rice from 1998 to 2001. Neither rice has been developed for commercial use since the testing ended 6 years ago.
The report plus a second document on the “Lessons Learnt”  reveals a number of serious shortcomings which hampered the investigations These include:
- records are sometimes not easily obtainable because they might not be retained by the permit and notification holders.
- unavailability of representative seed samples.
- In addition other procedural errors by the biotech company and their contractors were unearthed:
- researchers or developers were unclear about their responsibilities in the event of an unauthorized release and had not fully considered the consequences or measures that they should take in such an event.
- instances in which field trials were not planted or not terminated during the period specified by APHIS requirements.
As a result of the investigation APHIS make a series of recommendations:
- additional long-term record and sample keeping on GM test site and establishments.
- powers to obtain physical evidence without delay.
- gene-specific testing procedures needed to identify regulated articles in the event of an unauthorized release.
- comprehensive, written corrective action plan to be produced by the Biotech corporations. improved co-ordination between government agencies.
- compulsory written contracts between different parties conducting GM test sites.
- a review of isolation distance between GM crops and conventional and seed crops.
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:
We are not surprised by the lack of progress in tracking down the cause of these GM rice contamination incidents, given the time that has elapsed and the lack of reliable data, nor the failure to prosecute Bayer. The US regulators owe it to the rest of the world to ensure that the biotechnology companies take obligations to the food chain, health and the environment seriously by introducing new measures to minimize the chances of GM contamination occurring. We will be watching to make sure that our regulators take note of the findings in the USA and ensure that international agreements are tightened so that prevention takes top priority. The growing practice of inserting GM traits for pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and biofuels into food crops, such as maize and rice, means we have to have top quality management throughout. This appears to have been lacking in the case of the GM rice incident last year. Next time it might be a GM vaccine that contaminates our rice or cornflakes.
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065.
 Report of LibertyLink Rice Incidents (see www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/10/content/printable/RiceReport10-2007.pdf).