Banned: GE Rice Imports

Feature story - 29 September, 2006
Just weeks after we uncovered US rice on supermarket shelves in Europe contained illegal genetically engineered (GE) rice, the scandal keeps growing with more illegal GE rice being discovered. In the latest blow for the GE industry, the world's largest rice processing company has stopped importing US rice into Europe due to the threat of contamination.

Rice is life.

Ebro Puleva, which controls 30 percent of the European rice market, hasstopped importing US rice due to the presence of an illegal GE ricestrain. The rice strain causing the contamination is called LL601 andhas not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. Thecompany responsible for the contamination is Germany's Bayer who endedfield trials of LL601 in the US five years ago. However, the LL601 riceescaped the field trials and has now contaminated an unknown number ofconventional rice fields across the US.

Greenpeace investigationsrecently found another illegal GE rice contamination outbreak. Thistime it is from China and is a variety of rice called Bt63. Like the UShowever, Bt63 rice also escaped field trials and has now been found inprocessed rice imports into Europe. The extent of both GEcontaminations is still unknown with new discoveries of contaminatedrice occurring almost daily across Europe.

The move by EbroPuleva to stop importing US rice follows a summer of scandals, withillegal GE contamination found in rice products all over Europe as wellas in Japan. As a result of Bayer's recklessness, the global foodindustry is facing massive costs associated with this contamination,including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans andcancelled imports and contracts.

At least three multi-milliondollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US rice farmers againstBayer CropScience already, as farmers struggle to protect theirlivelihoods from GE contamination. To compound Bayer's legal problems,they may soon be in the legal sights of Ebro Puleva too. The world'slargest rice company has indicated that they expect to bring legalactions against Bayer as well.

"By imposing a blanket ban onrice imports from the US, Ebro Puleva has acknowledged how real andcostly the risk of GE contamination is," said Jeremy Tager, GEcampaigner from Greenpeace International. "With GE now as uneconomic asit is unacceptable, governments in countries that grow or import GEmust stop placing farmers, consumers, the environment and industry atsuch high risk."

The illegal GE rice scandal continues to ragejust as the WTO has finally published a ruling on a case broughtagainst the EU by the US, Canada and Argentina over Europe imposingrestrictions on the importing of GE food. At its heart, the dispute isabout whether trade laws trump environmental laws - and surprise,surprise, to the WTO it is trade law rules.

"The WTO is clearlyunqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues,and yet, when there is a conflict between trade and environmentalconsiderations, it is the WTO that gets to decide which rules rule;it's like putting the fox in charge of the chickens," said DanielMittler, Trade Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International

Thelatest GE contamination scandal shows that once GE organisms arereleased into the environment, the consequences for consumers, farmersand traders are enormous. The WTO has no place determining what peopleshould eat and illegal GE rice has no place on the dinner tables ofconsumers anywhere in the world.

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