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EU to check U.S. rice for genetic alterations

October 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

BRUSSELS — European Union nations voted Monday to test all U.S. long-grain rice imports to make sure they don't contain genetically modified varieties that haven't been approved by the EU.

All consignments of U.S. long-grain rice will be sampled and tested at EU entry ports before they can be distributed and sold, the European Commission said. The rules are expected to go into effect within a few days.

The EU action stems from fears that a banned genetically modified rice strain, Liberty Link Rice 601, which was accidentally imported from the U.S., could have found its way into Europe's food supply.

The commission said it had to start its own testing program because the EU and the U.S. had failed to agree on how to check for banned strains of rice.

Talks broke down after the parties could not find a way of testing the rice to "a high level of consistency and accuracy," the commission said.

The costs of the EU's testing will be borne by exporters.

European Union countries buy about $90 million in U.S. rice each year.

The tests also will check for LL Rice 62, another unauthorized genetically modified strain recently found in French imports of U.S. rice.

Wary of public health and environmental concerns, the EU allows only genetically modified foodstuffs that have been evaluated and authorized for sale in the EU market.

Although the EU's executive arm insists on a recall of the illegal imports, it has said the presence of LL 601 posed no immediate health risk to humans or animals based on a review of incomplete data provided by the U.S. government and the maker of the rice variety.

Whether the rice is safe to eat or not, it cannot be sold in Europe because it has not been evaluated and authorized in line with EU law, the commission said.

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