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Europe Urged to Reject Modified Rice
(Beyond Pesticides, March 23, 2004)
European governments are being urged to reject a genetically modified (GM) rice in order to prevent control of the world's most important staple food falling into the hands of multinational companies.

Member states have until Sunday, March 28th, to object to an application by German-based Bayer Cropscience to import into the EU a GM rice (LL Rice 62) that has been modified to resist the company's own herbicide, glufosinate ammonium. This is the first time that a company has asked for a GM rice authorization in Europe. Both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace claim that an EU approval of the rice will send a dangerous signal to developing countries and could lead to the eventual corporate take-over of one of the world's most important foods. Currently 2.5 billion people depend on rice as a staple food.

During a press conference in Brussels today, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were joined by internationally renowned food-security expert Devinder Sharma from India. Sharma pointed out that control over rice, Asia's staple food, is steadily passing into the hands of transnational corporations based in Europe and the US, which use unfair patenting practices and genetic manipulation of food. He warned about the danger of further " daylight robbery of genetic wealth " by European and US corporations in developing countries.

As well as the threat to the world's food supply, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are concerned that no long-term studies were carried out on this GM rice to examine the potential for serious health effects.

Bayer observed an increased amount of allergic compounds in the GM rice, but no explanation was provided nor was further research conducted. The UK authorities, who gave a positive risk assessment about the rice on January 28 2004, did not consider the environmental impacts of growing the rice outside the EU. Bayer provides no information on the likelihood of imported rice being spilled nor of the possible effects of this on the five EU member states that currently grow rice (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and France).

Eric Gall of Greenpeace stated, "GM rice is a serious threat to rice biodiversity and thus to the livelihood of millions of farmers in Asia. Not only does it risk contaminating European rice-producing regions, but key questions about its safety have not been answered. Member states bear a huge responsibility and should swiftly reject this authorization to import GM rice."

Geert Ritsema of Friends of the Earth said, " We are facing a corporate offensive on humanity's main staple crop. Allowing the import of genetically modified rice into Europe will give the green light to multinationals to promote unsustainable farming of this rice in developing countries. Allowing the world's most important staple food to fall into the hands of companies like Bayer is a dangerous and unprecedented move."

Read detailed briefings about the food safety and environmental risks of Bayer's GM rice are available. For more information, contact Eric Gall, GMO policy advisor, Greenpeace European Unit, +32 (0) 496 16 15 82 and Geert Ritsema, GMO campaign coordinator Friends of the Earth Europe, cell: +31-6-290 05 908, office: +32-2-542 0182.

TAKE ACTION: Urge Mr. Michael Leavitt, EPA Administrator, to restrict the power of U.S. multinational corporations that are gaining ever-increasing control over the world's food system and allowing increased use of pesticides with the spread of herbicide-tolerant crops. You can reach him by email, phone: 202-564-4711, or fax: 202-501-1470. You can use information from Beyond Pesticides' Genetic Engineering Program Page in your case.