EU restrictions on illegal US rice imports inadequate

Press release - 23 August, 2006
Greenpeace International criticized the announcement by the European Commission (EC) today as a minimal response to a serious contamination problem.

The EC stated that it would only impose testing and certificationrequirements on imports of long grain rice from the United States whichdoes not address contamination from genetically engineered (GE) ricethat may already be in food in the EU. The EC also relies on testingand information provided by Bayer, makes no commitment to its ownassessment of the extent of the contamination problem and also imposesno penalties and costs against Bayer.

The EC made this move after Commercial rice in the United States wasfound contaminated with genetically engineered (GE) Liberty Link (LL)rice 601, produced by agro-chemical giant Bayer and never intended forcommercial release. Imports were, as a result, immediately banned inJapan. (1)

"While the Commission should be congratulated for a quick response tothis genetic contamination, this response is inadequate as rice is theworld's most important staple food and is contained in many foodproducts currently on EU shelves, "said Jeremy Tager, GreenpeaceInternational GE campaigner. "It is time to move beyond case-by-caseprocedures as the GE industry has shown time and time again that it isunwilling or unable to prevent GE contamination."

Greenpeace International calls on the EC to stop reacting tocontamination 'accidents' and start preventing them instead. The ECshould identify countries and products that are at high risk ofcontaminating our food supply with illegal or dangerous GE organismsand implement screening, preventative testing and, where there is nodemonstrated capacity to prevent contamination, total bans.

Greenpeace International calls on other major importing regions such asthe Americas, Africa and the Middle East to take similar stepsimmediately until the US can guarantee that their rice supply - andother foods - are no longer contaminated.

"A message needs to be sent to the US and to agro-chemical giant Bayerthat genetic contamination and 'accidents' with our food are notacceptable, and ultimately they must be held liable for cleaning it up."

Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded onthe principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity andproviding all people to have access to safe and nutritious food.Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology thatcontaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and posesunacceptable risks to health.

VVPR info: Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner mob +31 (0) 6 4622 1185 office +31 (0) 20 718 2177Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications +31 (0) 6 4619 7324

Notes: (1)