GM Free Cymru

GM rice contamination disaster spirals out of control as a THIRD contamination incident is identified.

Press Release from GM Free Cymru 6th March 2007

Today it is apparent that the GM rice contamination incident in the USA has spiralled out of control, in spite of the best efforts of rice farmers, millers and food packagers in a complex "damage limitation" exercise. It has also been revealed that there have also been at least THREE separate GM contamination incidents, involving contamination by different "Liberty Link" varieties developed by Bayer CropScience.

Last year the US rice industry was rocked by the FIRST discovery that long-grain rice supplies were contaminated with a Bayer LL variety called LL601 (1). By the time the US regulators announced the contamination, on 18th August 2006, contaminated rice was already in the food chain all around the world; and major disruption was caused as testing programmes were put in place and as "positive" test results came in from one country after another. Contaminated rice had to be removed from supermarket shelves in many countries, and almost without exception these countries have banned further imports of US long-grain rice supplies. The price of US rice plummeted, and there are now 13 court cases pending as growers seek to obtain compensation from Bayer for financial damage. The contamination was traced to a rice variety called Cheniere, and the decision has been made by rice growers that this variety will not be planted at all in 2007 or 2008 (2).

That was bad enough. But yesterday (3) it was reported that there had been a SECOND serious GM rice contamination incident in the southern states of the USA, this time involving the Bayer CropScience variety called LL62: see our press release APPENDED below. We also reported that rice farmers in Arkansas had decided that they would grow Clearfield 131 rice in spite of the fact that it is contaminated with LL62 GM rice.

However, in a major new development, APHIS has stepped in today and ordered farmers NOT to plant Clearfield 131 rice anywhere in the southern states, in spite of the fact that there will now be severe shortages of seed stocks for the 2007 rice growing season. It appears that there is widespread contamination in seed stocks from 2005 and 2006, meaning that the contamination dates back to at least 2004.

This move is prompted by more discoveries of contamination by LL62 as the GM testing programme proceeds. It has not been revealed how many positive results have now come through the testing laboratories, but it is reasonable to assume that there must be more than a hundred. Also, the millers and food processors (including Procter and Gamble) have been pleading with USDA, APHIS and the rice farmers to stay away from Clearfield 131 so that there is at least a small chance that most rice entering the food chain later this year will be kept GM- free (4).

In a bizarre further twist, the testing labs have now identified a THIRD GM contamination incident. They have found LL contamination of Clearfield 131 which has nothing to do with LL06, LL62 or LL601. These are the only three GM rice varieties deregulated (ie authorised) in the USA. This means that the contamination is down to one (or more) of the other discontinued or experimental lines abandoned by Bayer probably at least a decade ago. BASF (the breeders of the non-GM Clearfield 131 variety) is now seeing its own business damaged, and the company is desperately trying to obtain from Bayer the genetic makeup of all of these abandoned (and possibly very unstable and non-uniform) GM-LL varieties (5) so that contaminated stocks can be impounded and destroyed.

Commenting for GM Free Cymry, Dr Brian John said: "The worst possible scenario is that there are SEVERAL unidentified GM contaminant varieties out there in 2007 seed stocks, and that they have already outcrossed from Clearfield 131 into wild red rice. Even if widespread environmental damage can be prevented, this is now an unmitigated disaster for the rice farmers of the southern states, and for the GM industry, on a much greater scale than previously admitted. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle."

ENDS Contact: Dr Brian John Tel 01239-820470

For US verification of this story, contact: Dave Bennett: Bob Cummings:


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