Bayer’s illegal GE rice continues to inflict damage on US rice industry
Common Dreams | September 29, 2006
AMSTERDAM - September 29 - In yet another blow to the US rice industry, the world’s largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva,(1) which controls 30% of the EU rice market, has confirmed to Greenpeace International that it has stopped all imports of rice from the USA to the EU due to the threat of contamination by genetically engineered (GE) rice.
The move follows a summer of scandals, with illegal GE contamination found in rice products all over Europe. As a result of Bayer’s recklessness, the global food industry is facing massive costs associated with this contamination, including testing costs, product recalls, brand damage, import bans and cancelled imports and contracts.
In a letter to Greenpeace(2), the Chairman of Ebro Puleva states: “We regret that US rice is facing a problem with GM rice and decided to stop any imports of US rice since August 2006.”
Ebro Puleva has also indicated that it will not consider purchasing from the US until the situation is under control. Instead, the company will purchase rice from other countries, with the exception of China, which continues to have problems with GE contamination of its rice.
“By imposing a blanket ban on rice imports from the US, Ebro Puleva has acknowledged how real and costly the risk of GE contamination is,” pointed out Jeremy Tager, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International. “With GE now as uneconomic as it is unacceptable, governments in countries that grow or import GE must stop placing farmers, consumers, the environment and industry at such high risk.”
At least three multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US rice farmers against Bayer CropScience already, as farmers struggle to protect their livelihoods (3). Ebro Puleva has said they expect to bring legal actions against Bayer as well.
In January this year, Bayer’s illegal GE LL601 rice was detected in rice intended for export from the US. This variety has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has only been grown in field trials that ended in 2001, and yet in September 2006, testing commissioned by Greenpeace and then by various European government agencies showed a broad variety of products on supermarket shelves in Europe had been contaminated by Bayer’s illegal GE rice. Following the Greenpeace exposé German supermarket chain Edeka announced that they would cease selling all US long grain rice. A number of European retailers, millers and processors have followed suit.
“It is now time for governments to respond strongly as well. They cannot leave enforcement of food safety laws to industry alone. We urge the EU to enforce its laws more vigorously and ensure that all member states comply, particularly those that have thus far refused to enforce EU law,” concluded Jeremy Tager.
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