Mexico Closes Border to Genetically Engineered Rice from the United States
July 6, 2010
Rice imports from the U.S. are currently being held at the U.S.-Mexico border by Mexican officials, who are requiring certification to conclusively show that the rice is not contaminated with genetically engineered variety LLRICE601.
Developed by Bayer CropScience, LLRICE601, which is experimental, was last grown in 2001, and neither Bayer nor the U.S. government has been able to explain how the contamination occurred following the discovery in August 2006. Many U.S. rice import markets, including Europe and Japan, have already put measures in place to prevent the contaminated imports from entering. This is the first time that Mexico has taken a precautionary measure on the importation of genetically engineered foods.
The measures taken by the Mexican government comes almost two weeks after Greenpeace demanded the immediate suspension of genetically engineered rice imports. Since issuing that call, Greenpeace activists held two demonstrations in Mexico, one in front of the Ministry of Health, and the second preceding the meeting between Presidents Bush and Calderon.
"Mexico has a golden opportunity to make a 180-degree turn in its genetic engineering policies, to work with the rice industry in elevating domestic production and advancing towards the goal of agricultural self-sufficiency," said Gustavo Ampugnani, anti-genetic engineering campaigner with Greenpeace Mexico.
Mexico is currently the largest export market for U.S. rice. In 2006, U.S. rice exports to Mexico were valued at a record $205 million, according to the USA Rice Federation, which is also in contact with the U.S. embassy in Mexico City over the border closing. It is estimated that 63 percent of the value of U.S. rice imports have been affected by the LLRICE601 variety.
The contaminated rice has been found in rice supplies throughout the southern U.S., and the LLRICE601 contamination scandal, discovered in August 2006, has been the worst crisis for the U.S. rice industry in recent memory. The USA Rice Federation adopted an emergency plan to keep the contamination from next year's harvest, although the bulk of the 2006 harvest is yet to be sold. With the discovery last week of further unidentified contamination, the USDA has taken the unprecedented step of ordering a ban on sales and planting of contaminated rice seed and the uprooting of rice that has already been planted.
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