Environmental groups detect unauthorised Chinese GM rice in European food

Less than a month after illegal GM rice was detected in imports from the US, European consumers are alarmed by yet another finding of GM rice in commercial foods – this time, originating from China.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe reported on Tuesday that laboratory tests detected an unauthorised rice strain in Chinese food imports from France, Germany and Britain. Five out of 29 food samples of rice stick noodles and vermicelli tested positive for the potentially allergenic, insect-resistant Bt-rice. The GM rice is still undergoing field trials in China and would have been cultivated illegally.

While the EU Commission has not confirmed the environmentalists’ claims yet, it is concerned by the latest development: "Operators are clearly not doing enough", spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said. The EU Commission has directed operators to keep any rice product with illegal content off the market. In addition, European member states have been urged to tighten controls for GM-contaminated foods on imports at their borders and on products already on the market. Reports to an expert EU committee are expected on September 11.

GM rice products are not approved for sale in Europe, but this would be already the second violation in less than a month after the unauthorised US long-grain rice strain LL Rice 601 was detected in the EU. The Commission has reacted by requiring certification of all long-grain US-imports to prove the absence of the biotech strain.

To date, the Chinese Government has replied to the Greenpeace report: "We have not approved a single case of the commercial production of GM rice", foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press briefing.