GM Free Cymru

Euro Scientists refuse safety clearance for GM rice

Press Statement 15th September 2006 from GM Free Cymru

In a statement just released by the GMO Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (1), the Euro scientists pointedly refuse to give a safety clearance for the unauthorised GM rice variety named LL601, which has contaminated Southern US rice products on a substantial scale (2).

Rice cargoes are "frozen" at European ports and rice mills while sampling and testing for the illegal rice variety proceeds. Thus far, at least 33 food samples have proved positive for the GM rice, and food has been taken off shelves in Germany and Switzerland following positive test results. In the Southern Unites States, where most long grain rice is grown, it appears that almost all the rice in storage from the 2005 harvest is contaminated. No test results are being published in the US, and the Department of Agriculture is involved in a massive "reassurance" campaign, with diplomatic pressure being exerted on all importing nations to accept rice stocks whether contaminated or not. In Europe, the EC has put a precautionary measure in place, demanding that all American rice consignments entering the EU have to be accompanied by certification proving that no GM rice is present.

The key statement in the EFSA press release is this: "According to the Statement of the Panel issued today there is insufficient data to provide a full risk assessment in accordance with EFSA’s GM guidance." The statement then goes on to explain that the Panel examined the "data available" and data on a "very similar GMO rice strain" before coming to the provisional view that "the consumption of imported long grain rice containing trace levels of LLRICE601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals."

NGOs have given a cautious welcome to the EFSA Statement, and have noted that it is clearly designed to give scientific support for the EC policy of precaution and import-point testing. Dr Brian John of GM Free Cymru says; "We do not agree with the provisional finding that contaminated rice is unlikely to cause a safety concern, since that finding is based upon assumptions, extrapolations and an admitted shortage of hard data about LL601. But for the first time we see a commendable caution in what EFSA is saying. What is even more interesting is the choice of words. EFSA is clearly furious with Bayer CropScience -- the company which has committed the contamination offence -- for failing to provide adequate data for a proper assessment to take place, and it is also not amused by being bounced into a hasty statement without adequate time for deliberation.

"The significant thing here is that this is NOT an endorsement for LL601 rice. The contamination event, which has been hushed up for months in America, is still a crime, and a retrospective provisional assessment like this does not suddenly make everything all right. Rice containing LL601 was illegal yesterday, and it is still illegal today. It is still illegal to stock it or sell it, and in our view American long-grain rice should still be taken off shelves as a prudent and precautionary measure."


Brian John
Tel 01239820470


European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) - Largo N. Palli 5/a, I-43100 Parma
European Food Safety Authority
Parma, 15 September 2006


EFSA’s GMO Panel provides reply to European Commission request
on GM rice LLRICE601

(2) This variety was tested by Bayer CropScience in the United States in the period 1998 - 2001. It was one of a number of GM varieties developed for resistance to the herbicide called Liberty. It must have been defective in some way, since the one crop grown with commercialization in mind, in Texas in the year 2000, was suddenly dumped into a landfill site in 2001. The variety was then discontinued, and it has never been brought forward for commercialization or authorization either in the USA or in Europe.