US illegal GE rice contamination spreads further into Europe

Bayers illegal GE rice found in major German supermarket

Press release - 11 September, 2006
The scandal around illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice entering European food outlets has grown today as Greenpeace tests reveal illegal rice from the US has contaminated rice on supermarket shelves in Germany. Last week Greenpeace revealed illegal GE rice from China, which poses a potential health risk, had ended up in rice products on European shelves. (1) The European Food Safety Committee meets today to determine the EU response to the potentially widespread contamination of rice and rice products and Greenpeace is calling on the EU to implement strong measures to stop further contamination.

Tests conducted by an independent laboratory have confirmed thepresence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in US parboiled long grain ricesold in Aldi Nord a major German supermarket chain which also has 700outlets throughout France. Bayers LL GE rice is not approved for foodor cultivation anywhere in the world except for the United States andCanada.

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"The first question we are asking to both US and European authoritiesis how widespread is this contamination in products already on grocerystore shelves?" said Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace GE campaigner. "The second question is what are they doing to protectconsumers?"  Greenpeace is demanding global testing of consumerproducts by the rice products industry and a European recall ofcontaminated US rice products.

Greenpeace is also calling on US authorities and food companies toprotect US consumers.  "We know that food products in Europe arecontaminated.  What about the rice products that US consumers arebuying, like Uncle Ben's and Rice Krispies?   We haven'theard a peep from the US food industry.  What assurance arecompanies such as Kellogg's providing to consumers that their productssold in US supermarkets do not contain illegal GMOs?" added Stabinsky.

Greenpeace followed the announcement of contamination with a letter toUS Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, calling on the agency to testall rice exports, regardless of destination.  Other importantexport markets for US long grain rice and rice products include Mexicoand the Middle East, where countries such as Saudi Arabia have strictlaws regulating GE food products.  Greenpeace is urginggovernments around the world to protect consumers in their countriesand test rice products on supermarket shelves that originate from theUnited States.

For the past two years, US rice producers have refused to grow GE ricecommercially because of lack of consumer acceptance around theworld.   The US rice industry, already reeling underwidespread contamination and multiple lawsuits as a result of fallingrice prices, is now likely to face an even larger global backlash.

"We know from experience in the Starlink case that the initialcontamination finding is just the tip of the iceberg.  Onceillegal GE crops are in the food chain, removing them takes enormouseffort and cost. It is easier to prevent contamination in the firstplace and stop any plans to commercialise GE rice," concluded JeremyTager, GE rice campaigner with Greenpeace International.  "This isa clear message to the global rice industry - stay away from GE rice oryou risk serious long-term economic damage to your market."  

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that isgrounded in the principles of sustainability, protection ofbiodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe andnutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwantedtechnology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversityand poses unacceptable risks to health.

VVPR info: In the USDoreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, +1-202-285-7398In AmsterdamJeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE rice campaigner +31 6 4622 1185Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324Images are available of the contaminated rice productsContact the Greenpeace International picture desk +31 20 718 2058

Notes: Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth UK also released findings last week that show a different illegal GE (genetically engineered) rice variety from China has contaminated food products in France, Germany and the UK. Greenpeace International has notified authorities that the illegal GE rice poses serious health risks and calls upon European governments to take immediate action to protect consumers. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/IllegalChinaGErice