Brussels, 25 August 2006
Measures put in place by the European Commission earlier this week, in response to the presence of an unauthorised GMO in rice on the US market, have been endorsed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health today. Since the Commission adopted the emergency Decision on Wednesday evening, only US long grain rice that is certified as free from the unauthorised LL Rice 601, following tests by an accredited laboratory using a validated testing method, can enter the EU. Member States have been asked to step up controls at the EU borders in order to ensure that only long grain rice consignments which carry the proper certificate are imported from the USA. Consignments without a certificate will be either returned to the USA or destroyed. A review clause is included in the Decision, whereby the measures will remain in place for 6 months, after which they will be reassessed by the Commission in light of developments in the situation.
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The European Commission has today adopted a decision requiring imports of long grain rice from the USA to be certified as free from the unauthorised GMO LL Rice 601. The decision has been taken in light of the recent announcement by the US authorities that this unauthorised GMO had been found in samples of commercial rice on the US market (see MEX/06/0821 ). The emergency measures adopted by the Commission today mean that, with immediate effect, only consignments of US long grain rice that have been tested by an accredited laboratory using a validated testing method and accompanied by a certificate assuring the absence of LL Rice 601, can enter the EU.
Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said "We have strict legislation in place in the EU to ensure that any GM product put on the European market has undergone a thorough authorisation procedure based on scientific assessment. There is no flexibility for unauthorised GMOs - these cannot enter the EU food and feed chain under any circumstances. The measures we have taken today will ensure that unauthorised GM rice is not inadvertently imported. EU consumers can rely on the high level of protection that our GM rules afford them."
Under EU food safety legislation, only GMOs which have undergone a thorough scientific assessment and authorisation procedure may be put on the EU market. The decision adopted today therefore aims to prevent the unauthorised LL Rice 601 from reaching EU consumers, by ensuring that only rice certified as free from this GMO enters the EU. The measures will enter into effect immediately, and are expected to be reviewed after 6 months.
Member States authorities are responsible for controlling the imports at their borders and for preventing any contaminated consignments from being placed on the market. In addition, they should carry out controls on products already on the market, to ensure that they are free from LL Rice 601. Business operators importing rice from the USA also have responsibility for ensuring that LL Rice 601 does not enter the EU food chain and that imports are certified as free from this unauthorised GMO, in accordance with the EU food law principle that operators are responsible for the safety of the food or feed that they place on the market.
The presence of the unauthorised LL Rice 601 was first notified to the European Commission by the US authorities on 18 August. The Commission immediately requested further information from the USA and from Bayer, the company responsible for producing LL Rice 601. The extent to which the US supply chain has been contaminated is still unknown, which is why the Commission though it was appropriate to proceed immediately with the adoption of emergency measures. The Commission will continue actively monitoring the situation and adapt the measures if necessary.
As is the case with all such emergency measures, the Commission will submit the decision to the Member State experts for review within 10 days. To this effect, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health will meet urgently on Friday 25 August.
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Questions and Answers on the finding of unauthorised GM rice on the US market
Brussels, 23 August 2006
What information has the Commission received with regard to unauthorised GM rice on US market?
The US authorities informed the European Commission in the evening of 18 August 2006 that trace amounts of non-authorised genetically modified rice had been detected in samples of commercial long grain rice on the US market. The unauthorized GM rice in question is LL Rice 601, a GM rice strain that Bayer had worked on (including field trials from 1998 to 2001) but had decided not to commercialize. Bayer therefore did not seek regulatory approval for this GMO. Two similar GM rice types (LL Rice 62 and LL Rice 06) are authorized in the USA, but not in the EU. The protein found in LL RICE 601 is approved for use in other crops,. Bayer is now requesting an authorization for LL 601 rice in the USA, in light of the current situation. An investigation is ongoing in the USA as to how and to what extent the unauthorized GM entered the supply chain.
Does this finding pose a threat to the safety of EU consumers?
The US authorities have said that these traces of the unauthorised GM rice in commercial rice do not pose safety concerns, and similar lines are legally on the US market for human and animal consumption. However, the EU practices a very strict policy of only allowing GMOs which have undergone full scientific assessment and authorisation in the EU. Under EU legislation, even traces of unauthorised GMOS are illegal. Therefore, any product containing GMOs which have not been authorised in the EU, such as the LL Rice 601, will be blocked from the EU market. This is to ensure that the highest possible level of consumer protection is maintained in the EU.
What did the Commission do in response to this announcement by the USA?
Once the European Commission had been informed of the presence of traces of unauthorised rice on the US market, it immediately wrote to the US authorities to request more detailed information on the situation, in particular in relation to the risk assessment and detection method for the GMO in question. In addition, the Commission also urgently met with representatives from the company which produced the unauthorised GMO, in order to get additional information.
What measures is the EU taking in response to this situation?
In order to prevent LL Rice 601 from reaching the EU market through US imports, the Commission has adopted a decision requiring imports of long grain rice from the USA to be certified as free from the unauthorised GMO LL Rice 601. This means that only consignments of US long grain rice that have been tested by an accredited laboratory using a validated detection method, and are accompanied by a certificate assuring the absence of LL Rice 601, can enter the EU.
Controls will be carried out on consignments at the EU borders, to ensure that no product containing unauthorised GMOs is being imported, and Member States will also carry out sample testing on products already on the EU market.
How long will these measures remain in place?
The measures will remain in place for 6 months, after which the situation will be reviewed again.
Who is responsible for checking imports for unauthorised GMOs?
Member State authorities are responsible for import controls and for ensuring that food which contains unauthorised GMOs does not enter the EU. The risk associated with different types of food and feed, are taken into account when deciding upon the frequency of these controls.
The Commission has asked Member States to step up their border controls in response to the US findings of non-authorised GM rice mixed in with conventional rice, to ensure this unauthorised rice does not reach the EU consumer.
In line with EU General Food Law, business operators also have a responsibility for ensuring that any long grain rice they import from the USA is certified as free from LL Rice 601.
What happens if the unauthorised GM rice is found in imports?
The EU Regulation on official feed and food controls provides for a number of measures which can be taken in the case of an unauthorised GMO being found in a consignment for import, including the complete destruction of the consignment or its return to the country of origin.
How much rice does the EU import from the USA, and how does this compare to other countries?
The USA is one of the major suppliers of rice to the EU. The EU imports approximately 20.000 tons of long grain husked, semi-milled and wholly-milled rice from the USA per month on average. Other major suppliers of rice to the EU are India, Thailand and Guyana.
Is any GM rice variety authorised in the EU? Is any EU authorisation of GM rice in the pipeline?
Currently no GM rice is authorised in the EU for food and feed use or for cultivation or import. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is currently examining one application for authorisation which concerns a genetically modified rice. This is Bayer’s LL Rice 62, which contains the same modified protein as the unauthorised LL Rice 601 in question.
For more information on EU legislation on GMOs, see: MEMO/05/104
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Trace amounts of non-authorised GM rice on US market
21 August 2006
The European Commission was informed late on Friday, 18 August 2006, by US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns about the detection of trace amounts of non-authorised genetically modified rice in samples taken on the US market from commercial long grain rice. According to the US authorities and based on the information available to them, the presence of these traces do not pose safety concerns, neither in food and feed, nor in the environment. The European Commission will write today to the US authorities to request urgently more and specific information, in particular in relation to the risk assessment and to the detection method. In addition, the Commission will meet company representatives today to get additional information. Based on this information, a decision on further actions, if necessary, will be taken. As in the past, the European Commission will ensure that unauthorised GM products do not reach the EU citizen.