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Europe warns on rice imports from U.S
The European Union said Thursday that it would reinforce controls on U.S. long-grain rice imports, after Dutch officials found an unauthorized genetically modified variety in shipments that arrived in the port of Rotterdam last month.

Philip Tod, a European Commission spokesman, said the EU executive body had alerted officials in Britain, France and Germany that some of the genetically modified long-grain rice might have entered their markets.

He said that the imports of long-grain rice were certified as genetically unmanipulated. Yet spot checks by Dutch officials found traces of Liberty Link Rice 601, a genetically modified variety developed by Bayer CropScience in the United States, he said.

Tod said one shipment had been impounded in the Netherlands, and another in Belgium. He could not say how much rice was involved or how much might have ended up in Britain, France, Germany or other EU nations.

The United States is one of the major suppliers of rice to the EU, with the 25- country bloc importing an average of 20,000 tons of long-grain husked, semi- milled and wholly milled rice from the United States each month.

Wary of public health and environmental concerns, the EU allows only genetically modified foodstuffs that have been evaluated and authorized to be placed on the EU market. LL Rice 601 is not among them, and also lacks approval for human consumption in the United States.

The responsibility for certifying that imports comply with EU norms lies with any company that places foreign goods on the EU market.

In the last two weeks, EU officials have twice reported illegal imports of genetically modified American rice. Last week, the EU said that 33 out of 162 samples of rice imports contained LL Rice 601.

The rice was developed by Aventis CropScience, which was taken over by Bayer of Germany in 2002 and renamed Bayer CropScience. Bayer announced in July that it had found the 601 strain in storage units in Arkansas and Missouri.

Tod said that the EU wanted to know from Dutch authorities how rice certified as "negative for the presence of LL Rice 601" could show positive in countertests. He also said that the EU would contact the U.S. authorities. "We will be following up with them as soon as the situation in the Netherlands is clarified," he said.

Tod said that the European Commission "intends to take further action to strengthen" the testing of imports of long-grain rice for the presence of the 601 strain. On Aug. 23, the Commission said that U.S. long-grain rice imports must be tested by accredited laboratories and certified that they are free of traces of LL Rice 601.

MGR Archive 23.9.2006
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