EU orders China to prove that rice is GMO free

Beginning on April 15, all imports of Chinese rice products into the European Union must be accompanied by a certificate to prove they are free from the unauthorised Bt 63 rice. This decision by the European Commission has found the support of Member States in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in Brussels.

Rice products from China containing the unauthorised genetically modified Bt 63 rice were discovered first in France, Germany and the UK in September 2006. Although Chinese authorities assured the EU of taking appropriate measures to avoid further illegal shipments, alerts concerning the presence of Bt 63 occurred until late 2007. Furthermore, Beijing was unable to provide control samples and a protocol of a detection method that qualitatively and quantitatively were appropriate for use by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the Commission for validation of control methods used by Chinese authorities.

In light of such short-comings, the emergency measures adopted yesterday demand obligatory tests by an official or accredited laboratory using a specific testing method. A wide range of rice products are addressed, including rice noodles. Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "Under EU food safety legislation, only GMOs that have undergone a thorough scientific assessment and authorisation procedure may be put on the EU market." Member States are responsible for the execution of necessary controls. The measure is valid for six months and will be monitored by the Commission.