Wednesday, August 30, 2006

EU still anxious for details on U.S. biotech rice; Japan suspends imports of U.S. long-grain rice

EU food safety authorities are still waiting for Washington to provide more details about an unauthorised biotech rice strain that may have crept into exports and fear the problem may be bigger than first feared.

Last week, the EU tightened requirements on U.S. long grain rice imports to prove the absence of a genetically modified (GMO) strain known as LL Rice 601 marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States.

The EU decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long grain samples that were targeted for commercial use -- the first time this had happened.

EU food safety experts are still waiting for the United States to offer more details of how much GMO rice -- at the moment, no biotech rice strains may be imported or sold in the bloc -- may have entered European ports within other cargoes.

"We still have no formal information about the extent of the contamination, origin or timeframe for when this happened," one EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"But we have heard informally from the rice industry that their preliminary testing indicates that the contamination may be much more widespread than first thought," he said.

Japan has suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice following a positive test for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for human consumption, a news report said Sunday.

Japan's Health Ministry imposed the suspension on Saturday after being informed by U.S. federal officials that trace amounts of the unapproved strain had been discovered in commercially available long-grain rice, the Asahi newspaper said.

The genetically engineered rice was detected by Bayer CropScience AG. The German company then notified U.S. officials. The strain is not approved for sale in the United States, but two other strains of rice with the same genetically engineered protein are.


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