U.S. Dismantles Regulation of GE crops to Serve Interests of Biotech Industry

Article from GE Free Website: http://www.gefreesonoma.org/

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has initiated fast-track market approval of an illegal, genetically-engineered (GE) rice variety that has contaminated long-grain rice throughout the South, throwing rice markets into turmoil and causing potential harm to consumers and the environment. The variety, known as LL601, was developed by Bayer CropScience. Bayer field-tested LL601 from 1998-2001, but for unknown reasons never applied to USDA for market approval.

Though it is known that LL601 is illegally present in rice supplies, U.S. authorities have failed to recall contaminated rice supplies or food products, despite a lack of information on potential health or environmental impacts. In contrast, Japan has banned U.S. long-grain rice imports, and the European Union is testing U.S. rice shipments and rejecting those that contain LL601. Prices for US rice have already dropped by 10%, and losses to US farmers could reach $250 million or more.

The variety is engineered for specific herbicide resistance. Scientists are concerned that, if approved, this trait is almost certain to make its way into red rice, a weedy wild relative of white rice that is already rice growers’ biggest pest. If red rice becomes herbicide-resistant, farmers would be forced to use more toxic weedkillers.

Bayer is now asking USDA to grant retroactive market approval of the illegal rice, even though it remains inadequately tested. The company gave up plans to market LL601 five years ago, and is clearly trying to avoid liability for the contamination.

Consumers should not be asked to pay for Bayer’s mistake. USDA should hold Bayer accountable: test and recall contaminated food products, make all test protocols and positive samples available to the public, destroy the contaminated rice and compensate farmers and food companies for their losses – not deregulate an illegal product after the fact.