Posted on September 5, 2006

Can EU food importers keep out genetically modified products?

Greenpeace claims that Chinese rice is contaminated fuels biotech debate

The European Commission said Tuesday food importers need to do more to keep imports of genetically modified products out of the 25-nation bloc.

The EU’s executive office was responding to claims by two environmental groups that some rice imports from China contained illegal genetically modified elements.

Though the European Commission could not confirm the findings of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, spokesman Philip Tod said food "operators are clearly not doing enough" to keep the illegal products out.

Greenpeace said that illegal biotech rice had been found in food products in Britain, Germany and France. It said it was an experimental variety aimed at protecting the rice from pests but might cause allergic reactions in people.

Friends of the Earth demanded an immediate ban on Chinese rice imports.

"The European Commission must react quickly and ban imports from China until consumers can be guaranteed that foods containing rice are safe from contamination," said spokesman Adrian Bebb. "Chinese foods already in shops should also be immediately tested and products recalled if necessary."

It was the second time environmental groups called for such a ban in a month. Two weeks ago, the EU imposed extra controls on U.S. imports after traces of a banned genetically modified rice variety were found in U.S. long-grain rice.

No GM rice varieties have been cleared for sale in Europe, and EU authorities said they are taking all possible measures to avoid it hitting store shelves.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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