Biotech Rice Found in Commercial Grain Bins

USDA says the rice does not pose a food or feed supply safety risk but more is being done to investigate situation.

Published on: Aug 21, 2006

USDA and FDA have been notified by Bayer CropScience that the company has detected trace amounts of regulated genetically engineered rice in samples taken from commercial long grain rice.

Regulated crops have not gone through the regulatory process for USDA to determine if it can be safely commercialized.

Bayer CropScience informed USDA of the find July 31, 2006 and USDA made the official announcement late Friday afternoon. According to Terri Tueber USDA spokeswoman, the samples were found in commercial Arkansas and Missouri grain bins holding 2005 crop co-mingled from several states. However, Tueber cautions that the agency does not know which states those grain bins received rice from and warned against putting restrictions on specific states for that reason.

Since the finding, USDA and the Food and Drug Administration reviewed LLRICE 601 - a line that is herbicide-tolerant to Liberty Link. "Based on the available data and information, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the presence of LLRICE 601 in the food and feed supply poses no safety concerns. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also conducted a risk assessment, which indicates LLRICE 601 is safe in the environment," says Ag Secretary Mike Johanns.

Bayer indicated it had no plans to market LLRICE 601 and therefore had not requested deregulation, Johanns says. If a GE crop has gone through the regulatory process for USDA to determine that it can be safely commercialized, it is commonly referred to as being a deregulated crop. This is necessary before it is sold and produced commercially. Deregulation allows the product to be moved and planted freely without the need for notification or permits.

Two deregulated rice lines, LLRICE 62 and LLRICE 06, have been through thorough safety evaluations and have been deemed safe for use in food and safe in the environment, although these lines have not been commercialized.

Based on reports that LLRICE 601 is in the marketplace and a petition from Bayer, APHIS will conduct a deregulation process, including an opportunity for public comment, he adds.

Export markets

According to estimates for the 2006 crop year, rice production in the U.S. is valued at $1.88 billion, approximately half of which is expected to be exported. The U.S. provides about 12 % of world rice trade. In 2005, 80% of rice exports were long grain varieties.

Although certain biotech lines have been tested, the industry has not accepted any commercial lines of genetically engineered rice.

The USDA spokeswoman explains that many countries have a zero-tolerance on biotech crops. For this reason, Bayer has developed a test for producers, customers and exporters to use to determine if any of the protein is found in rice shipments.

Tueber says Bayer will make the information on the tests available on their Web site when it comes available.