Coalition against BAYER-dangers (Germany)
September 13, 2006

Open Letter to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

Imports of Glufosinate-tolerant Rice LL62 from Bayer CropScience

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

we are concerned about the application for a marketing approval for Bayer’s glufosinate tolerant rice LL 62.

In the US a similar type of genetically engineered rice, LL 601, has been found in samples of supplies destined for human consumption. Bayer field tested the LL 601 variety between 1998 and 2001, but it is unclear how the present contamination occured. Like LL 62 this rice trait is tolerant to Bayer´s weedkiller Liberty Link. LL Rice 601 has not been tested for safety for human consumption and was never authorised by regulators.

Nevertheless LL Rice 601 now found its way into the European Union's retail food sector and appeared for sale at branches of the German discount supermarket Aldi. So even after more than 10 years of trials, the biotech industry is not able to guarantee the coexistence of GM and non-GM crops. The incident shows that risks linked with modified rice can´t be controlled in the long term. Bayer´s environmental risk assessment and monitoring plan for LL Rice 62 do not give sufficient consideration to the possibility of the escape of this GM organism through accidental spillage of grains in southern Europe, where rice could grow and contaminate non GM crops.

An authorization would not only be a threat to European consumers but also to farmers and the environment in developing countries. Rice is the staple food for more than one-half of the world's population. The decision by the European Union with respect to this GM rice will be extremely influential in countries with limited resources to undertake their own regulatory review.

A European approval of GM rice would allow Bayer to promote GM rice cultivation in developing countries, especially in Asia. This could lead to genetic contamination of existing rice cultivation in the centres of origin and diversity and could jeopardise biodiversity and thus the principal food source in the developing world. The negative impact would fall most heavily on the most vulnerable, the rural poor.

Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament states that EU member countries must “ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to avoid adverse effects on human health and the environment which might arise from the deliberate release or the placing on the market of GMOs.” Therefore we call for the stringent application of the precautionary principle with regard to GM rice. We urge you not to approve LL Rice 62 for imports to the EU. There is insufficient evidence that Liberty Link Rice will not cause adverse effects to human health and the environment.

With Regards,
Philipp Mimkes

Coalition against Bayer Dangers
Press Release, Sep 11, 2006

After the US Rice Contamination Scandal:

European Authorities urged not to approve Bayer´s GM Rice!

In the US an unapproved type of genetically engineered rice has been found in samples of supplies destined for human consumption. The rice, developed by Bayer CropScience, produces a protein that makes it resistant to the herbicide glufosinate. Japan has suspended US long-grain rice imports immediately.

Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group in Washington, says this incident is "another example of how this biotechnology industry continues to act irresponsibly."

In Europe Bayer has tabled an application for the import of a similar GM rice called LL62. This modified rice is meant for human consumption. The Coalition against Bayer Dangers from Germany which has been monitoring the company for 25 years urges the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) not to approve LL62. An approval of this modified rice would pose unknown risks for human health and the environment.

Philipp Mimkes, speaker of the group: "We call for the stringent application of the precautionary principle with regard to GM rice. The incident in the US shows that risks linked with modified crops can´t be controlled in the long term." Mimkes states that a European approval of GM rice would allow Bayer and other biotech companies to promote GM rice cultivation in developing countries. This could lead to genetic contamination of existing rice cultivation in the centres of origin and diversity and could jeopardise the principal food source in the developing world. The negative impact would fall most heavily on the most vulnerable, the rural poor.

Sep 11, 2006

Tainted biotech rice found in Germany -Greenpeace

BRUSSELS - An unauthorised genetically modified (GMO) rice has found its way into the European Union's retail food sector and appeared for sale at branches of discount supermarket Aldi, environment group Greenpeace said on Monday.
The biotech rice strain, known as LL Rice 601, was found in Aldi branches in Germany, Greenpeace International said in a report. At present, no biotech rice at all is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the 25 countries of the EU.
"Tests conducted by an independent accredited laboratory have confirmed the presence of Bayer's Liberty Link rice in U.S. parboiled long grain rice sold in Aldi Nord, a major German supermarket chain," it said in a statement.
Officials at Aldi Nord were not immediately available for comment.
In August, the European Commission tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of LL Rice 601, which it said was marketed by Germany's Bayer AG and produced in the United States.
In Frankfurt, a spokeswoman for Bayer said the company did not sell or produce LL Rice 601. She said the strain was developed by Aventis CropScience, a company bought by Bayer in 2002, but that development had been discontinued in 2001.
"We are taking note of this report, evaluating it together with the rice industry as more information becomes available," the spokeswoman said.
"We don't know whether Greenpeace has used testing methods validated by European authorities and whether they have used designated labs."
She also said U.S., British and Canadian regulators had confirmed the food safety of the rice.
The Commission's decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601, engineered to resist a herbicide, in long-grain samples that were targeted for commercial use.
The only other evidence so far of the presence of LL Rice 601 in the EU-25 has been in the Netherlands, where Dutch authorities have been testing a 20,000-tonne U.S. rice cargo that was partly destined for Britain and partly for Germany.
As of last Friday, two-thirds of the cargo -- held in Rotterdam -- had been tested but no positive trace was found, European Commission officials said. The shipment equates to one month's average EU imports of U.S. long-grain rice.

Letter to the 25 EU Member States: Reject Bayer's application to import genetically modified rice into the EU

28 Aug 2006

US rice farmers sue Bayer CropScience over GM rice

LOS ANGELES, Aug 28 - Rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and California have sued Bayer CropScience, alleging its genetically modified rice has contaminated the crop, attorneys for the farmers said on Monday.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock, law firm Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll said in a statement.

The farmers alleged that the unit of Germany's Bayer AG failed to prevent its genetically modified rice, which has not been approved for human consumption, from entering the food chain.

As a result, they said, Japan and the European Union have placed strict limits on U.S. rice imports and U.S. rice prices have dropped dramatically.

A Bayer representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

U.S. agriculture and food safety authorities learned on July 31 that Bayer's unapproved rice had been found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri. While the United States is a small rice grower, it is one of the world's largest exporters, sending half of its crop to foreign buyers.

The genetically engineered long grain rice has a protein known as Liberty Link, which allows the crop to withstand applications of an herbicide used to kill weeds.

The European Commission said on Wednesday the EU would require U.S. long grain rice imports to be certified as free from the unauthorized strain. The commission said validated tests must be done by an accredited laboratory and be accompanied by a certificate.

Japan, the largest importer of U.S. rice, suspended imports of U.S. long-grain rice a week ago.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have said there are no public health or environmental risks associated with the genetically engineered rice.

The United States is expected to produce a rice crop valued at $1.88 billion in 2006. U.S. rice growers are responsible for about 12 percent of world rice trade. Three-fourths of the crop is long grain, grown almost entirely in the lower Mississippi Valley. California, the No. 2 rice state, grows short grain rice.

Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 27, 2006

Biotech foods: A cat that won't stay bagged

Another unapproved product finds its way into marketplace

In a global marketplace that dislikes genetically modified (GM) foods, America's agricultural exports must rely on trust above all -- trust that GM varieties are safe to eat, preferable to grow and strictly regulated.
On the first point, the scientific support is pretty strong. On the second, which is about philosophy as much as science, it looks to be an uphill fight. And on the third, well. . . can't we go back to talking about safety?
That seems to be the approach at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose response to the latest regulatory breakdown -- inexplicable mixing of biotech rice into regular stocks -- can only make matters worse, trustwise, with skeptical export customers.
Friday before last, Secretary Mike Johanns announced that Bayer CropScience had found "trace amounts" of its engineered long-grain variety in U.S. bins holding rice from the 2005 crop. Although this GM rice was "regulated" -- fedspeak meaning "unapproved for market release" -- Johanns stressed that both his department and the Food and Drug Administration had found it to pose no threat to human or environmental health.
The announcement didn't mention that Bayer had notified USDA of its discovery on July 31, three workweeks earlier. Johanns acknowledged the timing at a press conference, explaining that USDA had withheld the information while trying to validate a test that producers, shippers and customers could use to detect the Bayer rice, an herbicide-resistant variety ref="hknown as Liberty Link 601. Oh, and they were reviewing safety data, too -- not a time-consuming task, since the basis for declaring the 601 variety safe is only that its special protein is the same inserted into two earlier Bayer strains that were "deregulated" years ago.
Anyway, the testing is all about protecting sales, not safety. It was a sure bet that Japan and the EU countries would ban raw rice or processed foods contaminated, in their view, with the Bayer strain. Saving this billion-dollar export market required a way to certify shipments as GM-free.
Alas, three workweeks wasn't enough time for USDA to prepare answers to such questions as how the Bayer rice, field-tested between 1998 and 2001, could turn up in the 2005 harvest. Or how many rice bins, in how many states, contained the modified strain. Or whether any of the GM rice had reached U.S. supermarket shelves.
Some of this information has surfaced subsequently. According to Riceland Foods, the nation's largest rice marketer, the 601 strain was detected "across the rice belt" in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. Moreover, Riceland also said it had been investigating the matter since January, when a customer discovered GM rice in an export shipment. How it got there remains a mystery, but a solution has emerged: Bayer will now seek retroactive USDA approval to sell Liberty Link 601.
That may be of some help to American rice producers, who have seen prices plummet since Johanns' announcement. But it won't do much to boost their credibility, or the USDA's, with foreign customers. That will require a regulatory system that can be trusted to do what it claims -- under leadership that treats its customers' concerns with respect and candor, and discloses screwups without rationalization and delay.

21 August 2006, BBC

Japan bans 'contaminated' US rice

Japan has suspended US long-grain rice imports after supplies were found to contain a genetically engineered variety that is unapproved for sale. The European Commission said it was seeking information from US authorities "with the utmost urgency".

"Trace amounts" of the experimental rice variety were detected in US commercial supplies by the German company Bayer CropScience.
Bayer then notified US officials about the positive test.
The genetically engineered rice variety, LLRICE 601, possesses bacterial DNA that makes the rice plants resistant to a weedkiller.
The strain is not approved for sale in the US, but two other strains of rice with the same genetically engineered protein are.
The majority of US rice imported by Japan is short- and medium-grain. These are unaffected by the ban.
A spokesperson for the Japanese embassy in London said the ban would likely remain in place "until the US can say the rice no longer contains the genetically engineered variety".
Antonia Mochan, a European Commission spokesperson for science and research told the BBC: "This is a matter of utmost urgency for us and we will be looking to act as soon as we can once we have the knowledge that can inform that decision."
She would not rule out a suspension of imports, but said many options could be considered depending on the answers they received.
In a statement, US agriculture secretary Mike Johanns said: "There are no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this (genetically engineered) rice."
Officials at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the GM variety had been found in samples from storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri.
The bins hold rice from several states, making it difficult to know what state the rice came from.
Secretary Johanns said the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Aphis) was conducting an investigation to determine how the release happened and whether it broke USDA regulations.

August 23, 2006, Arkansas Gazette

Industry pursuing how rice strayed


Arkansans affiliated with the rice industry are looking for answers in the wake of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement Friday that trace amounts of unapproved genetically engineered rice had been discovered in U. S. long-grain rice samples.
Although federal officials said the bioengineered rice poses no problem to the food and feed supplies, Asian and European buyers have begun taking steps to limit U. S. rice imports. And prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have fallen on speculation that demand for U. S. rice will suffer.
Unmilled rice sold on the Chicago Board of Trade for September delivery fell 50 cents per hundredweight on Tuesday, from $ 9. 55 to $ 9. 05. The exchange limits price swings to 50 cents per hundredweight above or below the previous day’s close.
Arkansas’ largest rice cooperative, Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods Inc., said late Monday that it had been investigating the matter since January, when an export customer discovered genetically engineered material in a shipment.
Samples from that rice tested positive for a Bayer CropScience herbicide-resistance trait, and “a significant number” of other samples collected in May from Riceland’s production area — Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas — also tested positive “at a 0. 06 percent level, the equivalent of 6 kernels in 10, 000 kernels of rice,” Riceland spokesman Bill Reed said.
In 2005, Arkansas produced more than 48 percent of the U. S. crop, which was worth $ 1. 8 billion. About half of all U. S. rice is exported and approximately 80 percent of those exports are of long-grain varieties, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The U. S. provides about 12 percent of the rice traded in world markets. Nearly 94 percent of Arkansas’ production that year was the long-grain variety.
The Bayer rice in question contains a gene that causes the plant to produce a protein that makes it resistant to the herbicide Liberty, also known as glufosinate. It remains unclear how this rice, which was grown in test fields from 1998 to 2001, got into the 2005 U. S. rice crop. Bayer never sought approval to sell this line of genetically engineered rice, and although two similar lines were later approved for human consumption, they were never marketed because of opposition from major rice buyers.
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Richard Bell said Tuesday that the trace amounts of genetically engineered material pale in comparison to the discovery in 2000 that the U. S. corn supply had been contaminated at the 0. 9 percent level with StarLink corn, which wound up in taco shells and other foods. StarLink, which was genetically engineered to be insect-resistant, was approved for use in animal feed but not for humans because of its potential to trigger allergic reactions.
The current contamination of U. S. rice supplies, however, is “widespread” and likely to show up again in the 2006 crop, Bell said.
Eric Wailes, an agricultural economist with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, said that recent events show that “our regulatory system isn’t working in terms of being able to monitor and keep unapproved, noncommercialized varieties out of the supply chain. That’s the real indictment from this problem.”
Bell said, “What we think has happened is that this gene has gotten into one of the ‘ public varieties ’” of rice released by plant breeders working at state universities.
“One of the things that APHIS the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working on is they’re trying to identify which public variety it is” through DNA testing, Bell said.
The state Plant Board has offered to help APHIS with sampling, Director Darryl Little said.
“We don’t really have all the information we need to say what happened... or what needs to happen going forward,” he said. “I think there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Although Arkansas passed legislation in March 2005 to regulate rice “having characteristics of commercial impact,” the rules for implementing the law have not been finalized.
“But that law and regulations wouldn’t have prevented something like this,” Little said.
Greg Yielding, executive director of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, agrees that more information is needed.
“I have farmers calling saying, ‘ Is there is a way to test my bins ?’” he said.
The group is working with U. S. Rice Producers Association and the USDA to try and get answers for that and many other questions, Yielding said.
Bryan Moery, a Wynne rice farmer who serves as chairman of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, said he hoped people would not overreact to the news.
Wailes, the UA agricultural economist, said it is important that the USDA is talking with the country’s major trading partners, but export markets are not the only concern.
“The reason why we don’t have commercialized biotech in rice is primarily because of Anheuser-Busch and Kellogg,” he said. “They have so much brand equity that they feel like ‘ Why do we need it ?’”
On Saturday, Japan suspended U. S. long-grain rice imports until shipments are shown to be free of any traces of unapproved rice varieties. Japan, however, buys mostly short- and medium-grain rice grown in California, so the ban’s impact is likely to be limited.
The European Union said it would “take the measures which are required to protect European consumers” from an unapproved genetically modified rice. A decision by the 25-nation bloc is expected today.
Genetically engineered crops, which were introduced in 1996, have increasingly grown in acceptance by U. S. farmers and consumers. Genetically engineered soybeans, cotton, corn, canola, alfalfa and squash are widely used for food, fiber and feed.
According to the USDA, 92 percent of the soybeans and 94 percent of the cotton planted this year by Arkansas farmers were genetically engineered varieties, and more than 70 percent of processed foods on U. S. grocerystore shelves contain ingredients and oils from biotech crops. Information for this article was contributed from Tokyo by Koki Hanyu, from Ho Chi Minh City by Jason Folkmanis and from Brussels by Kevin Costelloe of Bloomberg News.


GM rice invades food supply; scientists baffled over source

Last week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that trace amounts of a bioengineered variety of long-grain rice had been found in samples of commercial rice, and that the contaminated rice may have entered the food supply.
Bayer CropScience, the company that discovered the contamination, alerted the FDA and USDA of the problem in July. Last week both agencies issued statements saying that a review of the available information revealed no concerns for human health, food safety or the environment.
The USDA says biotech products aren't unusual in the United States, and issued a statement that says, "Since 1987, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Plant Health Inspection Service has deregulated more than 70 GE genetically engineered crop lines and in the last decade farmers have increasingly planted biotech varieties engineered mainly for herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, and enhanced quality traits." The USDA estimates that of the country's 2006 crops, 61 percent of the corn, 89 percent of the soybeans and 81 percent of the cotton are biotech crops.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns says that the contaminated rice crop was from a 2005 crop, but he could not determine where the crop had originated. Johanns was unable to say how far the contamination had spread into non-GE crops, or if the contaminated product had reached supermarkets.
"In other words," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate, "the authorities who should be on top of this issue have no idea where, how or why our crops are being contaminated with genetically engineered strains that may actually pose an unknown threat to our food supply. It sounds like the rice isn't the only thing being engineered here," he added, "...authorities are also engineering a public relations smokescreen to hide a serious issue."
The USDA says it will conduct an investigation into how the rice became contaminated, and whether any federal violations occurred. The agency is also informing foreign trading partners -- who purchase 80 percent of U.S. rice exports, valued at $1.88 billion -- of the contamination.


Unapproved genetically altered rice shows up

Long-grain rice samples, which may have come from a Missouri storage bin, were found to contain trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for consumption by regulators.

"There are no human health, food safety, or environmental concerns associated with this (genetically engineered) rice," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Friday.

The rice, modified to withstand herbicide applications, was developed by Bayer CropScience, a Raleigh, N.C.-based unit of German conglomerate Bayer AG. It was field tested between 1998 and 2001, but the company abandoned its commercialization. Two other varieties of rice containing the same genetic trait were extensively tested and approved by the Agriculture Department for consumption and release into the environment -- but Bayer chose not to take them to market.

On July 31, Bayer voluntarily reported it had found trace amounts of the unapproved rice, known as LLRICE 601, in samples taken from commercial long-grain rice. The company will not say where it was grown, or why it was testing commercial samples.
Johanns said he did not know the answers to those questions, but USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will investigate. The contaminated rice was harvested in 2005.

The Associated Press quoted "department officials" as saying the samples came from storage bins in Missouri and Arkansas; but they could not say specifically where it was grown.

"What surprised me is they have known about this for three weeks and (they don't know) the details about potential impact in terms of volume of crop or location," said Greg Jaffe, director of the biotechnology project with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The Washington-based nonprofit doesn't oppose GM crops, but questions the level of government oversight.

USDA "obviously took what the industry said at face value, without asking a lot of questions," Jaffe said.

GM crops -- the bulk of which are corn, soybeans, cotton and canola developed by Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co. -- are widely used. More than 70 GM products have been approved for commercialization in the U.S. since 1987, and more than 70 percent of processed foods on American grocery store shelves contain GM ingredients.

Yet U.S. consumers largely remain ignorant and suspicious of their presence in food, according to several studies. Shoppers and governments in several European Union countries have rejected most GM foods for cultivation and import.

About half of the $1.88 billion U.S. rice crop will be exported this year, according to USDA estimates. In 2005, about 80 percent of American rice exports were long-grain varieties.

Johanns said USDA held its announcement of the contamination while tools were developed -- with Bayer cooperation -- to test rice for the presence of LLRICE 601. By Rachel Melcer