Tuesday, September 12, 2006

European Standing Committee Considers GM Rice Contamination

The European Commission released a press release today on the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), reviewing the GM rice contamination.

As discussed in a earlier post, the contamination of US rice exports by the GM strain, LL601, led to immediate bans on imports in Europe and Japan, with the European Commission announcing that it would require certification to prevent further entry of GM rice.

The Federation of European Rice Millers (FERM), representing over 90% of the milling capacity in Europe, was in attendance at the meeting to report on the system of control of rice imports. Last month, FERM released a statement supporting the Commission's decision to introduce a system of testing and certification and at the SCFCAH meeting a detail report was provided of the controls and validated testing methods currently in place. FERM reported that 33 of the 162 samples tested had returned positive results for LL601. Indications at the SCFCAH meeting were that LL601 could be present on the European markets, but actual tests could not be confirmed for another 2 weeks at least. However, of the Member States already testing, no positive results for LL601 have been returned.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Commission adopted a decision in August to require all rice to be certified free of LL601. Since then, no consignments without certification have entered the EU market.

A shipment of approximately 20000 tonnes of US rice was detained in Rotterdam, 26 August 2006. After testing the barges, 3 have been positive for LL601 while 20 have been negative and have since proceeded to market. The positive consignments are to be returned to the USA or destroyed. Shortly thereafter, evidence of GM rice in Chinese imports was reported by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. The Commission has requested the submission of information and samples to the competent authorities to confirm this and has also written to the Chinese authorities for further information.

The SCFCAH is one of several Regulatory Committees which assist the European Commission in the development of food safety measures at all stages of the food chain. Referred to as the “from the farm to the fork” approach, the Committee deals with food & feed safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health.

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