The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

GE Contaminated Rice Turns up in Mexican Markets

by Jessica Azulay

Mar. 15, 2007 – Six months after the US Department of Agriculture announced that the US long-grain rice supply had been contaminated with illegal rice, the genetically modified grains are still showing up in unexpected places.

The international environmental organization Greenpeace released lab results this week showing that genetically engineered rice known as Liberty Link (LL) 601 is being sold in at least three markets in Mexico. LL601 was an experimental rice designed by Bayer CropScience to resist the company’s trademark Liberty Link pesticide.

The rice was not approved by the US government for humans to eat until about three months after it was revealed that it was already in the food supply. It remains unapproved in Mexico, according to Greenpeace. The NewStandard was not able to independently verify that the rice is still banned in Mexico, but could find no record of its approval.

"Our worst fears have been confirmed: we are eating genetically engineered rice without even knowing it," Gustavo Ampugnani, genetic engineering campaigner with Greenpeace Mexico, said in a press statement.

Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, a Greenpeace scientist based in the US, told TNS that the organization purchased rice in three locations in Mexico and sent samples to an independent laboratory for testing. While testing by the group on earlier samples found no genetic contamination, the new samples did prove contaminated. Two of the samples tested were the popular Mexican supermarket brands, Chedraui and Soriana. The other was from one of the city’s large wholesale markets, Central de Abastos.

“Our worst fears have been confirmed: we are eating genetically engineered rice without even knowing it.”

"These test results and the latest USDA declarations prove that contamination isn’t only possible, but is reaching epidemic proportions in the US," Stabinsky said in a press statement. "The US regulatory system is clearly incapable of protecting consumers here and abroad from untested and unapproved genetically engineered varieties."

Supposedly, LL601 rice has not been planted in the United States since 2001. Neither Bayer nor the US government has been able to explain how genes from the rice are turning up in today’s rice supplies.

Since the USDA relies on private companies to monitor rice stocks, the genetic contamination only came to light after Bayer itself notified the government. As previously reported by TNS, Bayer appears to have waited two months to tell the USDA, which in turn waited another eighteen days to inform the public.

Since the contamination scandal came to light, the European Union has imposed strict testing requirements on rice imports to keep LL601 out of food supplies there. Greenpeace accused US companies of dumping contaminated rice on Mexico and called on the Mexican government to impose safeguards to keep LL601 out of the rice supply.

"US rice exporters are taking advantage of Mexican government apathy and disposing of their adulterated rice south of the border," Ampugnani claimed.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Jessica Azulay is a staff journalist.

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