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Global markets don't want GE rice

Page - February 1, 2007
In 2006 two scandals erupted when unapproved genetically engineered rice contaminated the global rice supply: LL601 and Bt63. These two events provide an insight into the real world implications of the growing of GE rice.

Products found to contain illegal and untested genetically engineered rice.

Through field trials (small trial plots of GE plants) and the illegal sale of GE seeds, large portions of the rice supply system became contaminated.

Farmers, millers, traders and retailers around the globe are facing massive financial costs, including testing and recall costs, cancelled orders, import bans, brand damage and consumer distrust that could last for years.

Neither of the GE rice varieties trialed in the US or China was approved for food consumption anywhere in the world at the time the contamination was discovered, yet somewhere in the rice production process, which involves millions of people, unapproved GE rice contaminated the rice supply not only of both countries but the global rice market as well.

Now, as a result of these contamination scandals, influential rice and food producers across the world are rejecting GE rice and have taken steps to protect their industry from recent and future contamination.

This commercial rejection of GE rice reflects global consumer opposition to GE products.

Greenpeace International received 38 responses from international rice companies following the contamination scandals, all of the responses received were in opposition to the use of GE rice in food production.

Spain - largest EU importer of rice says no to GE rice and halts US rice imports.

"We at Grupo Ebro Puleva are proud of our decision to not use GMOs in any of our products in response to consumer demand." 9/27/2006 Antonio Hernandez Callejas (Chairman, Grupo Ebro Puleva)

GE rice: Bad for business

These two events have changed the face and politics of the rice industry.

  • The European Union and Japan promptly declared import bans and restrictions on US rice long grain imports.
  • Stores in the UK were advised to remove all potentially contaminated rice products from their shelves.
  • Ebro Puleva, which controls 30% of the European rice market, stopped importing US rice.
  • US exports to South Korea were halted when the country demanded that rice be free of GE contaminants.

Immediately after the contamination announcement, effects were felt on the market, with rice future prices falling sharply by $150 million, the sharpest one-day decline in years. Rice prices were nearly 65% below the level forecast by the trend of prices prior to the LL 601 outbreak.

In the short term, the US rice industry is reeling under the impact of lost markets, cancelled orders, import bans and restrictions, plummeting prices and exports, testing and administrative costs. US rice exports are projected to decline 16% in 2006/2007.

Other rice producing countries are moving fast to capture open GE-free markets. In mid-November, the Rice Exporters Association of Thailand and the Vietnam Food Association signed an agreement confirming a non-GE rice production policy. Thailand and Vietnam are the world's largest rice-exporting countries and account for nearly half of all global rice exports.