Under stricter import controls, unapproved GM rice found in EU

The EU has modified import requirements in response to the detection of unapproved material in rice imports.

In Rotterdam, illegal GM material has been found in imported US long-grain rice only a month after new, and stricter, import requirements were implemented by the EU. Authorities see thereby the confirmation of a need for better control.

Traces of LL601 were present in 20,000 tons of US-imports, shipped to Rotterdam last week and destined for sale in Great Britain and Germany. The contaminated cargo was confiscated. The genetically modified rice strain Liberty Link Rice 601 (LL601) is not authorised for cultivation or sale in the 25 EU-countries.

Moreover, the EU commission stated that the European Federation of Rice Millers has tested 33 out of 162 rice samples positive for LL601 rice, imported from the USA. The relevant consignments have been kept from the market. The food industry is alarmed by the recent findings and fears re-calls of unauthorised Liberty Link products.

The origin of LL601 in European imports remains unclear: LL 601 has been developed by Bayer to resist herbicides in the USA but it has never been cultivated or authorised for commercial use. It is widely speculated that field studies by the Louisiana State University have led to cross-breeding with other rice strains. Alternatively, the seeds could have been mixed unintentionally by the producer. Bayer has now applied for authorisation of LL601 as food since US-authorities exclude any health risk.