Rice producers from Thailand and Vietnam, together the world’s biggest exporter, have announced their commitment to only growing GE free rice, in a new Memorandum of Understanding announced last week. The two countries account for more than half of all the rice traded in the world market today and will put mounting pressure on other rice producing nations to commit to a GE free rice supply.
“This announcement from the biggest rice exporters occurred after massive backlash against the GE industry following the recent scandals where illegal and unapproved GE rice varieties from the US and China contaminated the global rice supply,” said Jeremy Tager of Greenpeace International.
In the wake of the announcement, Greenpeace today revealed yet another major contamination, this time in the Philippines, where rice is the staple food: Bayer’s LL601 – – has contaminated rice products coming from the US, which are currently on sale in Manila(1). The brand found to be contaminated by GE rice is “Uncle Sam Texas Long Grain Rice” which is distributed in the Philippines by Purefeeds Inc and sold in major supermarkets like Robinson’s, Shopwise and SM.
“The public must be immediately warned, and the government must recall all US rice and rice products from supermarket shelves,” said Danny Ocampo of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “The Philippine Government must safeguard the staple food of Filipinos. The latest GE contamination scandal shows that once GE organisms are released into the environment, the consequences for consumers, farmers and traders are enormous,” Ocampo added.
The global food industry is now facing massive costs associated with GE contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts. At least five multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by about 300 US rice farmers against Bayer, as they struggle to protect their livelihoods from GE contamination. In addition, the world’s largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva, which controls 30% of the EU rice market, has stopped all imports of rice from the US and is expected to bring legal action against Bayer as well.
The company responsible for the global contamination is Bayer, which ended field trials of the LL601 variety in the US five years ago. So far in 2006, this unapproved and illegal variety has been found in at least 24 countries. Last week contamination was announced in several countries in Africa. How small scale field trials in the US resulted in global contamination of rice supplies is still not known. Many countries including the EU, Russia and Japan have responded with import restrictions, and recent export figures show serious declines in US long grain rice sales.
Earlier, Chinese rice exports to the EU were also found to be contaminated by illegal GE Bt63 rice.
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production that is grounded in the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people to have access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
Notes to Editor
(1) On Friday 24th November the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted marketing approval of Bayer’s LL601 GE rice variety following its illegal contamination of the food supply and rice exports, first discovered 11months ago. The controversial decision was taken at the request of the developer, Bayer CropScience, solely to ensure that it is not responsible for the ongoing contamination of US rice supplies. Bayer dropped plans to commercialize the variety five years ago and has no intention to market the variety. The decision by the USDA provides some legal protection for Bayer for future contamination caused by its LL rice.
(2) The presence of illegal rice was verified in nine samples of U.S. food aid and commercial imports after tests were conducted in an independent laboratory in the U.S. The unapproved GE rice has been detected in rice sent to Ghana and Sierra Leone and the results were publicly announced by Friends of the Earth Africa in a simultaneous press conference in both countries in the morning of the 24th of November. http://www.eraction.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27