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Key Questions for FSA on GM Rice Contamination: 2% detection limit condemned

Immediate release (4 Sep 2006)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze has written to the Food Standards Authority to find out what they intend to do to limit the exposure of UK consumers to GM contaminated rice imported from the USA.

On 21st August, the US Food and Drug Administration announced [1] the widespread contamination of long grain and milled rice with a GM experimental rice called LL601 developed by Bayer Crop Science.

In a new development over last weekend the US FDA verified a new “10 minute” strip test for LL602 rice [2] which has a limit of detection of 2%.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze commented on the new test:

A two percentage limit of detection is worthless in the present situation – low level but nevertheless illegal contamination would be missed if this method was adopted. Any regulator endorsing its use would be doing the public a gross disfavour and would be helping to cover-up the extent of this serious contamination incident.

So far no cargoes of rice originating in the US have been refused entry or rice on supermarket shelves withdrawn despite reports of widespread contamination in the US [3] and court action against Bayer [4] for failing to prevent the contamination or warn farmers of the dangers.

Key questions GM Freeze want answers to include:

  • Can the FSA confirm what levels of contamination have been found in rice and milled rice in the USA to date?
  • Which are the main ports of entry into the UK for long grain rice imported directly from the USA or via ports in EU member states (e.g. Rotterdam)?
  • To what extent is milled rice imported from the USA and through which ports?
  • Has the FSA instigated a monitoring programme for cargoes entering the UK so that only rice free of GM is allowed to enter the market?
  • What sampling protocols for cargoes have been recommended and, given that no GM rice currently has approval for marketing in the EU, has PCR testing for generic parts of GM constructs such as Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV) promoters been used or considered in the absence of a definitive PCR test for LL601?
  • When does the FSA expect to receive a definitive PCR test for LL601 rice from the EC, the US authorities or Bayer CropScience?
  • Will the FSA or PHAs hold rice cargoes at port until verification of the GM content has been obtained from a reputable laboratory?
  • How many cargoes of rice have arrived from a) the USA direct and b) via other EC member states as trans-shipments from the USA since the LL601 contamination was first announced on 21st August?
  • How many cargoes of rice arrived from a) the USA direct and b) via other EC member states as trans-shipments from the USA since the LL601 contamination was first discovered in January 2006?
  • What instructions have been given to UK retailers and wholesalers of US rice for testing for GM presence in rice stocks?
  • What instructions has the FSA issued to wholesalers and retailers if GM is detected in stocks of US rice?

The UK imports 15-20% of its rice from the USA [5]. 80% of imports are of long grain rice which is believed to be where GM contamination is worse along with milled rice [6]. The contamination has been taking place undetected for several years. No GM rice is approved for marketing in the EU at present. Japan has halted rice imports from the USA as a precautionary measure [7].

In 2005 maize imports from the USA were found to be contaminated with the unapproved GM maize called Bt10. At the time it took the FSA six months to instigate a monitoring programme after the contamination was first revealed [8].

Commenting Pete Riley Director of GM Freeze said:

We want to see decisive action from the FSA to ensure that no more contaminated rice enters the UK either direct from the USA or via other EU ports. We also want to see a concerted effort to clean up rice stocks already in the food chain in the UK. We do not want a repeat of the 2005 GM maize contamination when the FSA’s reaction was tortoise-like. The LL602 rice contamination shows that industry cannot be trusted to protect public health and to keep unwanted GM products out of the food chain. What is more they are very reluctant to accept liability for their negligence. The USA is already experimenting with GM crops designed to produce pharmaceuticals so next time there is a similar contamination incident it could mean drugs in your cornflakes or with your curry.

ENDs

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065.

Notes
[1] See www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/biorice.html
[2] See http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?type=technologyNews&storyID=2006-09-01T230202Z_01_N01244921_RTRIDST_0_TECH-FOOD-USDA-RICE-DC.XML&archived=False
[3] Unapproved Rice Strain Found in Wide Area By ANDREW POLLACK, New York Times, August 22 2006
[4] For example Geeridge Farm Inc. and George G, Watson and others v Bayer CropScience LP District Court for Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division.
[5] Data obtained from trade Statistics Food Chain Analysis 3 Defra
[6] See http://deltafarmpress.com/news/060829-arkansas-gmo/
[7] See www.easybourse.com/Website/dynamic/News.php?NewsID=44088⟨=fra&NewsRubrique=2
[8] See here for details.