EU restricts import of US rice after contamination with GM rice

In the USA, traces of non-approved genetically modified rice have been found. The GM rice, called LL601, has been genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides containing the active ingredient glufosinate. After notification by US authorities of the unauthorised presence of the GM rice on 18 August, the EU decided to restrict imports on 23 August.

In a press release published today, the EU states: "The emergency measures adopted by the Commission today mean that, with immediate effect, only consignments of US long grain rice that have been tested by an accredited laboratory using a validated testing method and accompanied by a certificate assuring the absence of LL Rice 601, can enter the EU." Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: "The measures we have taken today will ensure that unauthorised GM rice is not inadvertently imported. EU consumers can rely on the high level of protection that our GM rules afford them."

The GM rice LL601 was developed during the 1990s by precursors of today's agro-company BayerCropScience. Two of these lines, GM rice LL62 and LL06, were approved in the USA in 2000. In the EU, the application for the use of LL62 in foods has been filed; however, rice LL62 is not yet being commercially cultivated.

The rice LL601 was detected in a container of conventional long-grain rice destined for human consumption. How the contamination happened is still unclear, since the last field trials with this GM rice were conducted in the USA in 2001. The traces were found in connection with the development of detection methods for the rice LL62. Further analyses will show the extent of the contamination, as well as whether the GM rice already has entered European food chains.

Based on the available scientific data, the FDA and USDA (US) rule out any risk to humans, animals, or the environment, and argue that the rice LL601 contains the same gene as the approved rice LL62, which successfully has passed its safety assessment.