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Brussels, 23 August 2006

Commission requires certification of US rice exports to stop unauthorised GMO entering the EU

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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