LONDON, UK, 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
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
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, and rapeseed.
"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 rice.
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 November 2003.
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 at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/regulation/euconsent.htm