This follows last month's decision to require imports of long grain rice from the USA to be certified as free from the unauthorised GMO LL Rice 601, after US authorities announced that this unauthorised GMO had been found in samples of commercial rice on the US market.
Following a presentation by the Federation of European Rice Millers on the controls they are carrying out, Member States updated the Commission and each other this week on their controls.
The European Federation of Rice Millers, which represents about 90 per cent of all EU trade in rice, gave an outline of the controls carried out by its members so far. Of the 162 samples for which there are already results using one of the validated testing methods, 33 tested positive for LL601.
Any consignments that tested positive have already been recalled or withheld from the market and the Federation's members have committed to continuing such withdrawals for any positive findings. The Commission reminded the industry of their legal obligation to inform Member State authorities when a consignment on their markets is found to contain an unauthorised GMO.
With regard to Member State controls, generic screening in two Member States has already indicated that LL601 could be present in samples tested on their markets but these findings need to be verified using one of the two validated detection methods for LL601.
However, many delegations informed the Commission that it would take another one to two weeks before their laboratories would be able to carry out the testing using the two validated methods for LL601, which would provide much more accurate results. Those Member States that have started testing with these validated methods have not had any positive results for LL601 rice to date.
The Commission urged Member States to intensify testing of products on the market as soon as possible and to provide an extensive report back on the results.
All Member States reported effective application of the emergency measures laid down in the Commission Decision adopted at the end of August, which requires national border controls to verify that imports of long grain rice from the USA are certified as free from LL601 rice.
No consignments without the proper certification have entered the EU market, and certain Member States are carrying out additional checks on certified rice consignments at their borders to fully ensure that the system is being properly applied.
Suspected shipment in Rotterdam
The Dutch representation updated the Standing Committee on the shipment of 20,000 tonnes of US rice, which was detained in Rotterdam on suspicion of LL601 contamination. Of the suspected barges that have been tested so far, three have shown up positive for the presence of LL601 in their consignments, while 20 others tested negative.
Further analytical testing is being carried out by the Dutch authorities. The consignments which tested negative for the unauthorised GMO have now been allowed to proceed to their final destination, while those which tested positive continue to be detained in Rotterdam and will either be returned to the USA or destroyed.
GMOs in Chinese rice
Following reports by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth last week that they had found evidence of a strain of GM rice in products imported from China, the Commission requested that all relevant information and samples be submitted to the competent authorities to confirm the findings and is still awaiting verification of these findings by the Member States concerned.
The Commission has also written to the Chinese authorities requesting further information, and asked industry and Member States to intensify their controls of rice products on the market.