EU to probe report that China sold gene-modified rice


The European Union said it would question China about reports that foods containing traces of genetically engineered rice are being sold in shops in Europe, the second such incident in three weeks. Environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace said they tested foods being sold in Asian specialty stores in the UK, France and Germany and „found rice products to be contaminated with the unauthorized GM rice.” The items, imported from China, included processed foods such as vermicelli and rice sticks. The incident follows emergency action last month by the EU that requires US exporters to certify their long-grain rice shipments are free of a gene-modified variety made by Bayer CropScience AG. „We expect any rice products with illegal products to be kept off the market,” Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the EU's executive body, told reporters in Brussels yesterday. Last year, the EU blocked US imports of corn animal feed for 10 days after Syngenta AG said it accidentally sold an experimental engineered corn that was planted on 37,000 acres in four US states. The EU in 2004 ended a six-year moratorium on approving gene-altered crops, overriding consumer concerns that biotech crops may harm human health and the environment.

Both the US and Chinese contamination are the result of field testing, he said, „so it's clear that the controls around test sites aren't good enough and the situation doesn't look to be under control.” Testing by the two environmental groups found traces of a rice variety modified to produce an insecticide that „is not approved for human consumption or commercial cultivation anywhere in the world,” the Friends of the Earth said in a statement. Five of 27 samples that were tested were contaminated, „which is quite a high strike rate,” Bebb said. The variety contains either a protein known as Cry1Ac, or a mix of the Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac proteins, which may generate allergic reactions, the group said. (Bloomberg)
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