In a long-awaited report released Friday afternoon on widespread contamination of the U.S. rice supply by an unapproved genetically engineered (GE) variety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would take no enforcement action against Bayer, the producer of the untested GE rice. Remarkably, the USDA report also reveals that the agency has no formal rules requiring biotech companies to retain records of their experimental field trials
or to require companies to keep seed samples for genetic tests, which are essential in detecting and tracking potential sources of contamination.
“Once again we find out too late that the government is uninterested in protecting farmers, consumers or the environment from genetic crop experiments,” said Joseph Mendelson III, Legal Director for the Center for Food Safety. “Bayer’s failure to keep these untested rice genes out of our natural food supply has crippled our rice industry and left hundreds of farmers with rice they can’t sell, and without the safe seed they need. It’s shameful that USDA refuses to hold Bayer responsible.”
The genetic contamination incidents, first disclosed in August 2006, have disrupted sales and planting for rice farmers throughout the US southern rice-growing region and caused a crash in U.S. rice exports, after Europe, Japan and other buyers closed their markets to U.S. rice. The EU was a major importer of long-grain rice from the US, purchasing 198,000 tons worth $67 million in 2005.
The USDA press release is available here