Brussels, 21 September 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe has demanded a suspension of all long grain rice imports from the United States after the European Commission admitted today that a consignment of US rice certified as "GM-free" was retested and found to be contaminated. 
Helen Holder, GM Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This revelation shows that the system for certifying rice free from genetically modified material is a complete farce. If contaminated rice has slipped through the net once then how can we be sure that it won't happen again? The European Commission must suspend long grain rice imports from the United States until the testing system is fully reviewed and proven to be robust and trustworthy."
The announcement by the European Commission today is the latest scandal in a saga that began in August, when rice stocks in the US were found to be contaminated with an illegal genetically modified (GM) strain.
It is now mandatory that long grain rice imports into the EU are certified as free from illegal GM contamination. Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, has insisted "There is no flexibility for unauthorised GMOs - these cannot enter the EU food and feed chain under any circumstances" .
Twelve consignments of rice - imported from the US through Rotterdam after the contamination was discovered - have been released, destined for the UK, Belgium, France and Germany. These consignments were certified as free of contamination from GM rice LL601 ten days ago by the European Rice Millers Federation . But the Dutch authorities re-tested some samples that had been held back from the shipments and found them to be in fact positive for LL601 rice contamination. The national authorities in Belgian, France, Germany and the UK have been informed of the error by the European Commission and asked to trace the contaminated shipments.
Friends of the Earth Europe has expressed concern already that the European Commission's emergency measures to deal with the GM contamination are not being implemented properly at a member state level. Today's news only confirms this.
"We would like detailed, publicly available information about the exact testing that is being conducted in each member state and the protocols that are being followed. We also want any positive contamination results to be publicized immediately. This blunder in the Netherlands has undermined the credibility of the EU's response to the crisis," Ms Holder added.
The GM variant is an experimental Bayer CropScience rice called LL601 that was grown at outdoor test sites in the US between 1999 and 2001. The rice has not been authorised for human consumption anywhere in the world. Indeed, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) admits that there is insufficient data on LL601 to be able to guarantee its safety.