Bayer, not taxpayers, must pay for GM rice testing in Europe

1 September 2006

Brussels, 1 September 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe today demanded that biotech giant Bayer finances all European food testing for its illegal genetically modified (GM) rice. EU member states are obliged to carry out testing of foods on their shelves following contamination of the food chain in the US with Bayer's experimental GM rice. The call comes as European authorities today published on the internet the official protocol for European laboratories to follow when testing foods for the illegal GM rice [1].

The European Commission has left the extent of testing to the discretion of each member state. But countries will have to pay for the testing themselves and each individual test can cost over 200 Euros. Bayer announced this week that its profits in the second quarter of 2006 have risen to over 7, 000 million Euros.

Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said:
"Authorities and rice importers throughout Europe must now conduct expensive testing to prevent US rice, contaminated with an illegal GM strain, from entering our food chain. These tests are essential, but European taxpayers must not be made to pay. Instead Bayer, the biotech company responsible for this pollution, must take full responsibility for its incompetence and foot the bill."

"It is clear that the GM industry cannot safely control its activities. When incidents like this happen, the industry must be forced to accept liability".

LL601 is a rice strain that was grown experimentally by Bayer CropScience between 1999 and 2001 in the US. It was not contained effectively, resulting in contamination of rice supplies in the food chain [2]. LL601 is not approved for commercial growing or human consumption, and the health and environmental impacts have not been fully investigated. Currently, no GM rice is allowed to be grown or imported into the EU.

Testing of rice in the United States for the GM strain LL601 has reportedly produced a significant number of positive results [3], indicating that rice imported into the EU from the same supply chain is very likely to also be contaminated. A shipment of rice suspected of containing the illegal GM rice is being held in the Netherlands while Dutch authorities carry out testing.

The multinational giant Bayer is being sued by rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California, after rice prices dramatically dropped following contamination by the LL601 genetically modified variant.

The protocol for testing has been validated by the EU and circulated to the European Network of GMO Laboratories [4]. Official authorities from the member states as well as private operators are expected to submit samples for testing in the next few days.

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NOTES:

[1] LL601 test protcol on Joint Research Council website

[2] Friends of the Earth Europe press release

[3] Delta Farm Press report

[4] European Network of GMO Laboratories

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