GM Free Cymru

GM Rice: Second US contamination incident revealed

APPENDED Press Release from GM Free Cymru 4th March 2007

It has emerged that the GM rice contamination scandal which caused massive damage to US rice producers last year was not an isolated incident. Now a second incident has come to light -- involving a different strain of GM rice and a different contamination history (1).

Statements which have been slipped out quietly by the US regulatory authorities have confirmed that a widely-used rice variety called Clearfield 131 is contaminated with a Bayer GM rice variety called LL62. In a major programme of testing, involving more than 500 samples, 20% of samples have been found to be contaminated with trace amounts of LL62, suggesting that the contamination incident may have occurred some years ago (probably in 2004) and was previously undetected because nobody bothered to do any GM testing.

Last year's contamination incident, which led to financial damage amounting to millions of dollars in the southern states of the USA, and which has caused much of the world to block off the once- profitable market for American long-grain rice, involved the contamination of a rice variety called Cheniere with Bayer's LL601 GM rice (2). As a result of that incident, there are thirteen pending lawsuits against Bayer CropScience in America, and it is rumoured that there will be further lawsuits in Europe, where rice importers, millers and food retailers have all suffered from major disruption, damaged public confidence and financial loss.

In the United States there has been no formal announcement of this second contamination incident, and indeed there is a concerted campaign to keep it under wraps as part of a long-standing "damage limitation strategy." However, there is turmoil in the rice industry, and rice growers are being forced to plant contaminated Clearfield 131 this year since Cheniere (which is very widely contaminated) cannot be planted for at least two years since the rice processors will not buy it. If the farmers do not plant Clearfield 131, there will not be enough rice seed to go round (3). So the decision has been made in Arkansas to plant contaminated Clearfield 131 specifically for the American market, bearing in mind that the GM variety LL62 does have US authorisation for growing and marketing.

In Europe neither of the varieties responsible for the contamination -- LL62 and LL601 -- has any authorisation in place, and the new revelations will inevitably do further damage to the US rice industry.

Commenting on the new revelations, GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said: "It is now apparent that GM contamination of US rice supplies is endemic (4). Bayer, the US regulators, and the rice industry itself are all culpable. But hopefully some good will come out of this appalling situation, when farmers finally wake up to the fact that GM contamination (by out-crossing and other means) is impossible to control, and that the global market wants food that is clean and healthy, not genetically manipulated to increase sales of chemicals and the profits of the biotechnology corporations."

ENDS Contact:

Brian John Tel: 01437-820470



(1) APHIS Program Announcement < printable_version/ia_ge_rice.pdf> Biotechnology Regulatory Services February 2007: Independent testing by the Arkansas Rice Board in January indicated the presence of genetically engineered (GE) material in non-GE Clearfield 131 (CL131) rice. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducted its own CL131 testing, which detected trace levels of LLRICE62 in CL131 2004 headrow seed. LLRICE62 is a line of GE rice developed by Bayer Crop Science.......... The positive sample was pulled from 2004 headrow seed--an early step in the plant breeding process--and not from foundation seed. NOTE: this "positive sample" has now been supplemented by many others. In Arkansas alone, 21 samples of Clearfield 131 have tested positive for LL62 contamination.

(2),,1884523,00.html < fact_sheet_bayer_LLRICE601>

(3) Arkansas’ third most popular variety in 2006, CL 131 was planted on 500,000 acres, and there remains an undeniable demand for the variety. With certified seed stocks already in the shortest supply in years, “any loss of CL 131 will make for a very short certified seed supply,” warned Randy Woodard, speaking for the seed industry. “CL 131 and Cheniere represent 39 percent of the certified rice seed acres in the South. If we were to lose CL 131, it would cut our seed supply to 36,000 acres.”

(4) The contamination of Clearfield 131 by LL62 is particularly worrying from an environmental point of view, because Clearfield out- crosses very easily with red rice, which is a weed for the rice growers of the southern states of the USA. It has already been proved to pass herbicide tolerance to wild red rice -- and it is now virtually inevitable that it will pass on tolerance to the herbicide Liberty (glufosinate ammonium) as well. See this: