Europe was poised on Tuesday to
prevent unauthorized biotech rice detected in the United States
from entering its food chain, the EU executive said.
Measures were not specified but the rice could be blocked
with import restrictions similar to those used in a case last
"We are preparing measures that we hope will be adopted
tomorrow in order to ensure that unauthorized GM products do
not reach European consumers," Commission spokeswoman Antonia
Mochan told a daily news briefing. She did not elaborate.
At present, no genetically modified (GMO) rice is
authorized for import or sale within the 25-country European
Union, although several biotech maize and rapeseed varieties
have secured EU approval.
GMO products have run into strong resistance in the
European Union, where many consumers view them as
Late on August 18, the Commission was informed by U.S.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns that trace amounts of
unauthorized biotech rice had been detected in long-grain
samples that were targeted for commercial use.
Nearly three weeks earlier, on July 31, U.S. agriculture
and food safety authorities were told that testing by Bayer
CropScience, a unit of Bayer AG, showed the GMO rice -- called
LLRICE 601 -- in rice bins in Arkansas and Missouri.
It was the first time that unmarketed genetically
engineered rice had been found in rice used in the U.S.
Commission experts have contacted Bayer and U.S.
authorities for more information, saying earlier this week they
were treating the matter with the "utmost urgency."
"We have a number of issues that we put to them on which we
wish clarification," spokeswoman Mochan said.
Japan, for which the United States is the largest rice
exporter, has already suspended imports of U.S. long-grain
Europe's consumers are known for their skepticism about GMO
crops. But the biotech industry insists its products are
perfectly safe and no different to conventional foods.
ANOTHER TRANSATLANTIC CLASH
The biotech rice case recalls a similar transatlantic clash
over GMO foods last year, when EU experts blocked imports of
U.S. maize animal feed and grains unless there was proof they
were untainted by an unauthorized GMO. That proof comes via a
technical detection test, provided by the manufacturing
It is still unclear whether the unauthorized rice strain --
modified to withstand applications of a weed-killing pesticide
-- might have found its way into shipments destined for
European markets, and if so, how much of it and in what
"We're looking into this with the American authorities to
see exactly what is at stake. On the basis of this information,
we'll adopt the right measures to ensure that the GMO rice does
not enter the European market," Mochan said.
"We're trying to see where the problem lies ... and the
potential impact on the European market," she added.
U.S. authorities say the GMO strain poses no risk to public
health or the environment. Green groups, however, are outraged
by the latest GMO scare to flare up between the two huge
trading partners, calling on the EU to suspend its U.S. rice
© 2006 McClatchy Washington Bureau and wire service sources