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Rice exporters face fresh costs as EU clamps down
Exporters of US rice are to be hit by new charges as the European Union widens its clampdown on genetically modified food.

The European Commission said yesterday that on Monday it would ask national food safety experts to require mandatory testing of all imports of US long-grain rice at EU ports after talks on an agreed testing regime broke down.

The decision follows the detection of a herbicide-resistant strain - which is illegal in the EU - in rice certified GM-free by the US, and indicates that Brussels has lost confidence in Washington's testing methods.

"If a consignment is certified as free of LL Rice 601, [then] before it can be released, it will be counter-tested by the authorities," a Commission spokesman said. "Only if the counter-test confirms the absence of LL Rice 601 or any other unauthorised GMO, would it be released."

The tests, costing exporters several hundred euros at least, would also look for a strain known as LL Rice 62, detected recently in France.

A fortnight ago the EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou began negotiating a common sampling protocol with Washington, but talks ended yesterday without agreement.

"Despite extensive discussions between both sides, the Commission and the United States were unable to agree on such a protocol," his spokesman said. It is understood that the US wanted higher acceptable levels of GM strains than Brussels.

While the Commission said LL Rice 601 was produced by Bayer, the German chemical company told Reuters news agency it was not.

The strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company it acquired in 2002. Development ended the year before, the company said.

Europe's Food Safety Authority has initially ruled there is no threat to human health from the GM rice. However, all biotech rice remains illegal in the EU.

Only a few strains of GM crops have been approved for cultivation or consumption in the EU because some countries, such as Austria, and many consumers are opposed to them.

Katharine Mill, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, welcomed the move. "We congratulate the EU for not agreeing to weaker US testing measures," she said.

However, she pointed out that Brussels has not taken any action against Chinese imports. Greenpeace found the BT63 strain of rice, which has not been approved for commercial use anywhere, in Chinese products on supermarket shelves in Germany in August.

"European rice growers are worried about the seeds getting out and contaminating their crops," she said.
MGR Archive 16.11.2006
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Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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