GM Rice: Standing Committee endorses stricter testing

Representatives of the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health endorsed on 25 October 2006 a draft version of a European Commission Decision. Member states are mandated thereby to test US long-grain rice arriving in Europe for unapproved GM material: only rice which has been proven under EU laboratory standards to be GM-free may enter the Union.

Since August, the unapproved GM event LL601 has been detected repeatedly in rice and rice products originating in the USA, and was the target of restrictions immediately imposed by the EU Commission. However, despite new certification requirements intended to ensure the import of exclusively GM-free rice, LL601 continued to be detected every day on the European market and, since September, in certified shipments of rice arriving at European harbours. A second unapproved GM rice, LL62, to which current tests are also sensitive, has been found on the market in France. The EU Commission responded by demanding that US-American laboratories adopt European testing standards in which, for example, detection thresholds are set ten times lower.

In addition to maintaining the new restrictions, the EU Commission legislated stricter import guidelines on 4 October. A subsequent waiting period of fifteen days was intended to allow negotiations to proceed between EU Consumer Protection Commissar, Markos Kyprianou, and the relevant US-American agencies. To support the establishment of common and accurate standards for sampling and testing, specific discussion topics included differences in sampling frequency and in test accuracy.

The collapse of these negotiations resulted in US-American GM certification being declared invalid for the EU, and member states consequently have implemented the new control measures devised by the Standing Committee. Under the new testing regulations, all consignments of US long-grain rice must be sampled and tested at their point of entry into the EU, with EU-standard tests sensitive to both LL601 and LL62, and at costs which are the responsibility of the exporters.