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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Urgent Action Needed on Illegal GM Rice Contamination

Immediate release (8 Mar 2008)

Calls to: Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065; Kirtana Chandrasekaran 0207 566 1669 or 079 619 86956

The absence of any safety data on an illegal GM rice from China currently in the UK food chain means that businesses and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should work quickly to ensure that no contaminated products are left on shelves or are allowed to enter the market [1].

The rice variety Bt63 was developed at the Huazhong Agricultural University in China and has not been approved anywhere in the world for commercial growing. Concerns have been expressed that the GM protein in Bt63 rice could cause allergic reactions, but the European Food Safety Authority has been unable to assess its food safety risk because of lack of data on the GM crop.

Bt63 genes have been detected in foodstuffs in China and Europe since 2005. The illegal GM genes have been found in a number of speciality rice products (such as rice sticks and noodles) in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden. In 2007 the UK imported nearly 1000 tonnes of these rice-based pasta products from China.

Efforts by the EU to persuade Chinese authorities to clean up the contamination have not been successful, On 12 February 2008 the EU agreed Emergency Measures to stop Bt63 entering the EU and to clear shelves of existing contaminated stocks, but the EU has decided that the measure should not come into force until 15 April 2008.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

It is not at all clear why the EU have decided to delay implementing the Emergency Measures on Bt63 rice for two months. The lack of safety data should have meant swift action. We urge industry, local authorities and the FSA to work as quickly as possible to clean up the food chain in the UK and to ensure that only products accompanied by an analytical certificate showing no GM presence are allowed through our ports.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran of Friends of the Earth said:

This is another example where GM has been released into the food chain before full safety assessments have been carried out, and once again, the complete lack of any liability regulation means that businesses will be hit hard. The UK Government needs to wake up to the massive economic and social costs of not implementing GM liability laws. It is vital that the UK Government takes the lead in ensuring that companies, especially small and medium sized business, are fully compensated by the Chinese authorities for their losses and costs incurred in dealing with this GM contamination.

ENDs

Calls to:
Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341065
Kirtana Chandrasekaran 0207 566 1669 or 079 619 86956
Notes
1. See GM Freeze/Friends of the Earth briefing here.