Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rice on Canadian store shelves contaminated - Government fails to detect illegal, genetically engineered variety

MONTREAL and VANCOUVER, Dec. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - An independent investigation by Greenpeace has found rice sold in Canadian supermarkets to be contaminated with an experimental, genetically engineered variety accidentally released into the environment.

Greenpeace is demanding that all long grain rice imported from the United States be removed from store shelves in Canada after independent testing confirmed that rice purchased at two supermarkets in Vancouver and Montreal was contaminated with a variety of genetically engineered rice not approved for human consumption by Health Canada.

'There are no assurances that this genetically engineered rice is safe for people to eat,' said Josh Brandon, agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace.

'Even if genetically engineered food was labelled, which it isn't anywhere in Canada, we would not know about the presence of this variety because of lax testing on the part of the authorities.'

The rice entered the American food chain sometime after 2001 following field trials at nine sites in Arkansas and Louisiana conducted by Bayer, the German multinational chemical corporation, which designed the rice to tolerate its brand of herbicide. Bayer only disclosed the contamination last year.

Many countries took immediate steps to identify contaminated shipments. Rice exports from the United States to Europe were suspended, while Japan tested all U.S. rice imports. So far, contamination has been confirmed in 30 countries, costing farmers, governments and the rice industry, Greenpeace estimates, more than a billion dollars. The Canadian government waited several months before implementing a very weak testing program, and then discontinued testing altogether last fall after failing to detect the presence of the experimental rice.

Recognizing that the testing was inadequate, Greenpeace last month sent rice purchased at Provigo at 50 Ave Mont-Royal in Montreal and at Buy Low Foods in the Kingsgate Mall at 370 East Broadway in Vancouver to Genetic ID, an independent testing facility in Fairfield, Iowa. The presence of the experimental GE rice, LLRICE601, was found in both samples.

'If the Canadian government had taken the kinds of measures adopted by countries such as the UK, Russia or the Philippines, they would have found this experimental rice long ago, and it would not be found on store shelves across Canada today,' continued Brandon. 'Instead, Canadians are being experimented with, as this country becomes a dumping ground for genetically engineered rice that the rest of the world has already rejected.'

Contaminated Rice samples:

- No Name brand, long grain white rice, imported by Loblaws, product code 166J2, bar code, 60383 00833.

- Western Family brand, imported by Overwaitea, best before date: 09 07 16, bar code 62639 17323

For further information: Josh Brandon, Greenpeace agriculture campaigner, (604) 721-7493; Jane Story, Greenpeace communications officer, (416) 930-9055

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