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Experimental GE rice should be stopped at border

31 August 2006

Experimental GE rice should be stopped at border - Greens

New Zealand Food Safety Authority's refusal to take any precautionary action in response to the importation of an illegal, untested, experimental GE rice is leaving consumers vulnerable, the Green Party says.

"The Authority should have immediately moved to suspended imports of long grain rice from the United States and launched a programme to test the level of contamination in the product already here," Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Liberty Link Rice 601 (LL601) is experimental, genetically engineered rice. It has not been approved for consumption or cultivation anywhere in the world. Earlier this month the United States Department of Agriculture announced that commercial rice was contaminated with Liberty Link grains.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has confirmed that 'indications are that low levels' of the contaminated rice have been imported into New Zealand.

"Japan immediately suspended all imports of long-grain rice from the USA, and the European Union has announced it will not permit any shipments into Europe unless they carry a clearance certificate assuring that it is not contaminated," Ms Kedgley says.

"In New Zealand, however, the NZSFA is doing nothing except issue bland assurances that this rice 'poses no public health or food safety risk'. Given that this experimental rice has never undergone any safety tests, I want to know how the Authority can claim that it poses no public health or food safety risk?"

"The Food Safety Authority is mandated to protect consumers and ensure that illegal, unapproved food does not enter the food supply. It has failed abysmally in this case.

"This is a classic public relations response by the Food Safety Authority - downplay the risk and reassure consumers that there are no concerns. In this case it seems the Authority is more interested in not upsetting a trading partner than in protecting New Zealand consumers," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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