January 14, 2004 (ENS): The UK government has
assessed an application by Bayer Cropscience Ltd for
the import of genetically modified rice for processing
and animal feed as complying with European Union requirements.
The European Commission was notified on January 7, and
the application and the UK's assessment will now be
studied by other EU member states before a collective
decision is made.
Under EU law, all applications to import or cultivate
genetically modified crops are initially assessed by
the government to which they are originally submitted.
Consent, if granted, would not permit cultivation of
the rice in the European Union nor, without separate
approval, could it be used in human food.
The Bayer rice, LLRICE62, has been genetically engineered
to be tolerant to the herbicide glufosinate, sold under
the trade name Liberty. The commercial name of the planting
seed is LibertyLink rice. Currently there is no commercial
marketing of LibertyLink rice anywhere in the world
but it is expected that varieties could be available
for commercial production in 2004.
Opponents of genetically modified crops say they could
irreversibly contaminate the environment by uncontrolled
genetic combination with traditional crops. As food,
critics say, they could trigger allergies and tests
are unable to demonstrate that long term dietary exposure
to them is safe for humans.
The UK government has been advised by its Advisory
Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) that
the LibertyLink rice, "Does not pose a risk to
human health and the environment. The marketing of this
product for importation and processing in the UK will
be no different from that of other rice imported for
processing and animal feed purposes."
Environment and Agri-Environment Minister Elliot Morley
said, "Current EU legislation requires a case-by-case
assessment of all applications on the basis of the scientific
evidence - and that is what we have done. Our independent
advisory committee has concluded that there are no safety
based objections to this application. We will, however,
be insisting as ACRE advises that, if marketing consent
is given, it should be on the basis that there are more
stringent post-market monitoring reporting requirements.
In 2001 in Texas, Aventis Cropscience, then manufacturer
of LibertyLink rice, destroyed nearly five million pounds
because it was worried that the herbicide resistant
rice was not approved in Japan and other countries.
Following this disaster, Aventis decided to get out
of the transgenic food business and sold its Cropscience
division to Bayer.
While approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration, LibertyLink rice was treated
with glufosinate, an herbicide that has not been approved
for rice, though it has been approved for corn, cotton,
"Genetically modified food and products are available
widely throughout the world," Morley said. "Only
products which have met stringent health and environment
tests will ever be on sale in this country - consumers
can then choose whether or not to use them on the basis
of the best information available."
If consent is subsequently given by the EU for import,
the UK government is "insisting" on annual
reports on post-market monitoring of this transgenic
Any consent would be subject to strict requirements
on traceability and labeling set out in new EU Regulations
on genetically modified foods adopted in September and
Although both regulations are now legally in force,
their practical requirements will only apply to EU member
states and to individual stakeholders from April 18,
2004. At the end of last year UK agencies held personal
consultations with representative stakeholders on all
practical aspects of their full implementation and are
currently running a formal written consultation.
The UK's assessment, and ACRE's advice, are online