1.Website documents all GM rice contamination incidents - Europe
2.Supermarkets withdraw banned rice - Ireland
3.Exporters want GM-free pledge - Thailand
4.Rice Row Prompts Call To Ombudsman - New Zealand
GM WATCH COMMENT: Note particularly in item 2 how tests by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) revealed GM rice in products supermarkets had already tested and declared GM-free.
In the UK, by contrast, the Food Standards Agency is refusing to test for the presence of the illegal rice in supermarket products, and only advised supermarkets to make sure they were not selling the illegal rice after a legal challenge was mooted.
But things could be worse. In New Zealand, the Government and NZFSA are apparently refusing to test either rice shipments or products in supermarkets for the illegal contaminant. GE Free NZ says such an approach is nothing short of a licence for the US to dump its contaminated rice into New Zealand's food supply. (item 4)
EXTRACTS: Both Dunnes and Marks & Spencer had their own analytical tests carried out, which certified their products to be free of the barred GM rice strain.
However, the FSAI said they had to go by the independent tests carried out for them by the State Laboratory. (item 2)
"It is extremely disturbing that senior ministers are agreeing to the dumping of illegal GM produce on overseas markets that don't 'object', and that New Zealand may be one such fall-guy if consumers are kept in the dark." (item 4)
Tanakorn Jitrarangbunya, of Chia Meng, another major rice exporting company, said Thailand could lose export markets if the government fails to create a global perception that Thailand a GMO-free. (item 3)
1.Website documenting all the GM rice contamination incidents (info via Clare Oxborrow of FoE)
Friends of the Earth have set up a website documenting all the GM rice contamination incidents (US and Chinese) in Europe:
Here's the latest:
There were 18 new notifications to the EU rapid alert last week.
We now know of at least 74 separate incidents from 15 European countries (13 EU countries plus Switzerland and Norway) of rice contamination with LL601 rice and 10 incidents from 4 countries of rice contamination with Chinese rice (Xianyou BT63)
France has finally also notified LL601.
The UK still hasn't notified the contamination with Chinese Rice.
Updated list at
2.Supermarkets withdraw banned rice
By Aideen Sheehan
Irish Independent, 12 October 2006
http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=133&si=1703786&issue_id=14749 [free registration required]
A NUMBER of Irish supermarkets have been found to be selling banned genetically modified rice in products that were certified free of GM components.
Dunnes Stores and Marks and Spencers have now withdrawn the long-grain rice products affected after the State's food watchdog found they contained a GM rice type barred from sale in the European Union.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed yesterday that their tests had found small quantities of GM rice in St Bernard Easy Cook Rice and Marks & Spencer American Easy Cook Rice.
The FSAI has now alerted the EC to the discovery and the supermarkets have withdrawn the contaminated products, while Tesco and Musgrave have also removed GM rice from their shelves. Both Dunnes and Marks & Spencer had their own analytical tests carried out, which certified their products to be free of the barred GM rice strain.
However, the FSAI said they had to go by the independent tests carried out for them by the State Laboratory.
The controversial GM rice strain was grown in crop trials by biotech company Bayer in the US between 1998 and 2001 but though it was never approved for human consumption it escaped into the food chain.
It was found last month to be present in some US rice exports to Europe and is now being tracked down by health authorities across the EU, with all further imports banned unless they are certified free of it.
The FSAI also discovered the barred GM rice in Nice Price Long Grain Rice sold by the Musgrave Group, which supplies SuperValu and Centra stores.
Tesco Ireland last month also removed batches of its own-brand long grain rice from sale after their own tests revealed them to contain GM traces.
The FSAI said in a statement they were satisfied that the presence of low levels of the GM rice product on the market "does not pose an imminent threat to consumer health.
"However as this GM rice is not authorised for food use in the EU its presence is not tolerated on the market, even at low levels," they said.
"Marks and Spencer and Musgrave Group have voluntarily removed all batches of the affected product from sale, while St Bernard has removed the specific batch in which the GM rice was identified," the FSAI said.
3.Exporters want GM-free pledge
By Apinya Wipatayotin
Bangkok Post, 17 October 2006
Rice exporters yesterday urged the government to confirm for Thailand's trading partners that Thai rice is free of genetically modified (GM) organisms. The move follows the discovery that food products sold in European markets contained GM rice.
Government assurances are urgently needed to boost international confidence in Thai rice in the wake of the reports about GM rice spreading, they told a press conference to mark the World Food Day.
Last month, Greenpeace released findings that the environmental group says show GM rice from China has affected food products in France, Germany and the UK.
The group also said GM rice from the US has been found on supermarket shelves in Germany.
Commercialisation of transgenic rice is banned in many countries. Wallop Pitchyapongsa, managing director of Capital Rice, a leading organic rice exporter, said the non-GM policy was the "selling point" of Thai agricultural products, including rice, therefore the government should promote this policy to global consumers.
One indication of consumer preference for non-GM rice was that some US rice customers had turned to importing rice from Thailand after Greenpeace confirmed US-grown rice contained GM organisms (GMOs), said Mr Wallop.
Tanakorn Jitrarangbunya, of Chia Meng, another major rice exporting company, said Thailand could lose export markets if the government fails to create a global perception that Thailand a GMO-free.
Export of the world's popular Hom Mali rice would be the first to suffer, he said.
Thailand exports about 7.5 million tonnes of rice a year, earning around 100 billion baht. The major markets include Africa, Asia, Middle East, the EU and US.
Mr Tanakorn called on the government to continue the ban on field trails of GMOs, as well as commercialisation of GM crops.
"I know the [GMO] field trial is important. But, it must be conducted under stringent measures to prevent adulteration by GMOs," he said.
Patwajee Srisuwan, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner, said many countries, such as Japan and in Europe, have been enforcing tougher rules to prevent the import of GM rice from China and the US.
The move would also be positive for Thai rice exporters, she said.
"The government should take this opportunity to declare Thailand a 'GMO-free country' and terminate all pro-GMO policies and activities," said Ms Patwajee.
Government reluctance to embrace a total non-GMO policy will adversely impact the whole agricultural sector, she said.
Greenpeace urged the government to come up with stringent measures to prevent the import of GM rice shipments into Thailand.
Rice importers should demand certificates and ensure products coming into Thailand do not contain GMOs, said Greenpeace.
4.Rice Row Prompts Call To Ombudsman
Press Release: GE Free NZ, 17 October 2006 http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0610/S00192.htm
Inconsistencies in the way food authorities have responded to contamination of US-grown long-grainrice by an illegal GE varient has prompted a call for the Ombudsman to become involved.
While New Zealand authorities has rejected calls to test for illegal LL601 GM rice or withdraw at-risk products, the UKFSA has ordered a withdrawal of all LL601 rice from supermarket shelves.
LL601 was engineered by Bayer Crop Science but discontinued in 2001 without any public explanation. It has never been safety-tested for human or animal consumption by any governmental authority.
The LL601 contamination has caused Japan and Europe to stop all long grain imports of rice from the USA unless proof is provided that the shipment is not contaminated.
Last week the European FSA said that the LL601 was "not an imminent safety risk". However in a surprise turn around they have now reversed their decision and are calling all supermarkets to withdraw imported US long grain rice from the shelves saying they have "new information" .
"The NZFSA must implement immediate testing of US imported rice and the costs should be carried by the company which holds the patent of the contaminating-rice. We are concerned at the lack of scientific rigour signalled by a refusal to test or remove product, and angered that the costs could end up being socialised onto the public," says Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in Food and Environment .
GM LL601 is an illegal contaminant yet it is understood FSANZ may not even have seen the full range of existing data or the application papers for approval, let alone data from independent tests. There are still no diagnostic tests to see if ingestion of this or other GM products is causing illness.
New Zealand Government Ministers have dismissed the request by GE Free NZ to test for and recall all at-risk rice as "shroud waving". Ministers have even gone so far as to have misled the public by saying this GM rice is tested and proven safe.
The US State Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell told a meeting on Capitol Hill that rice that tests positive for the genetically modified protein (LL601) would go into markets "that aren't objecting." Meanwhile Greenpeace reports finding extensive contamination of foods in the Middle East in common every day US brands.
"It is extremely disturbing that senior ministers are agreeing to the dumping of illegal GM produce on overseas markets that don't "object", and that New Zealand may be one such fall-guy if consumers are kept in the dark," says Claire Bleakley.
"We are calling on our Ministers to make clear our national policy which rejects illegal produce on sale in the New Zealand market."
GE Free NZ (in food and environment) has just recieved notice that the Ombudsman is looking into the LL601 rice issue after GE Free NZ wrote to them expressing concerns over the handling of the case by the NZFSA and their inconsitant approach relative to overseas authorities in Japan and Europe.