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EU bolsters controls for illegal rice
The European Commission said Tuesday that 33 of 162 samples of rice imports to Europe tested by European rice millers contained illegal genetically altered strains.

EU spokesman Philip Tod told reporters that any shipments and consignments that tested positive had been recalled or withheld from the market.

It was unclear where all the 33 positive cases were found; however, the Commission confirmed that tests on three barges containing rice from the United States had tested positive for a modification called Liberty Link Rice 601, which has not been approved for human consumption. The barges are now sitting in Rotterdam harbor in the Netherlands.

Consignments found to contain illegal strains are either being destroyed or are being returned to the United States, officials said.

Tod said the statistics were given by the European Federation of Rice Millers to a meeting of EU experts on Monday, which reviewed efforts by member states in boosting controls of genetically altered rice, which is illegal across the 25-nation bloc.

He added that all member states had adopted emergency measures to step up border controls on all imports of long grain rice from the United States to ensure they were free from the 601 strain.

Environmental group Greenpeace said Monday that biotech rice that has not been approved for human consumption has been found on supermarket shelves in Europe. It said that tests had confirmed the 601 strain had been sold in Aldi Nord stores in Germany.

EU officials said that preliminary tests in Germany and other EU nations had to be verified with further tests.

The Aldi Nord supermarket chain said it was too early to comment, adding that more tests were needed.

Liberty Link Rice 601 was developed by Aventis CropScience, which was taken over by Germany's Bayer AG in 2002 and renamed Bayer Crop Science.

Field trials on the rice, which had a protein added to help make it resistant to the Liberty herbicide, were stopped in 2001, said Bayer Crop Science spokeswoman Annette Josten. Though the seeds were never sold, traces of the modified rice have shown up in crops.

Bayer announced in July it had found the 601 strain in storage units in Arkansas and Missouri.

Josten stressed that the protein in Liberty Link Rice 601 was not dangerous, saying even though the rice had not been approved for human consumption, the same protein is in other foods that have been approved.

Since July, the EU has tightened screening to stop the product from entering its market.

The Commission reminded EU-based food importers to do more to keep imports of biotech products out of the 25-nation bloc unless they are specifically approved for use.

The EU's head office has also asked China for more information about its rice exports after two environmental groups said that some contained illegal genetically modified elements.

Greenpeace has said that illegal biotech rice had been found in food products in Britain and France. It said it was an experimental variety aimed at protecting the rice from pests but might cause allergic reactions in people.
MGR Archive 14.9.2006
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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