(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2007) On March 4, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began a recall of a brand of long-grain rice seed because of possible contamination by genetically modified (GM) rice. The recall is one in a series of recent mishaps involving GM foods.
The seed, known as Clearfield CL131, is manufactured by BASF Agricultural Products, a division of the world’s largest chemical company, BASF AG, and marketed by Horizon Ag. According to a USDA press release, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service administrator Ron DeHaven, D.V.M., states, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is taking action to prevent the planting and distribution of a long-grain rice seed known as Clearfield CL131 because testing by a private company has revealed the possible presence of trace levels of genetic material not yet approved for commercialization.”
The release continues to explain, “On March 1, 2007, BASF notified USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of independent laboratory test findings on 2005 CL131 registered rice seed . . . suggesting the presence of an unidentified and possibly regulated GM event.” In addressing this possibility, Dr. DeHaven states, “APHIS is conducting an investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release and whether any violations of USDA regulations occurred.”
In a prepared statement, BASF director Andy Lee says, “BASF notified the USDA immediately after becoming aware of the laboratory findings and we continue to work cooperatively with USDA on this situation.”
CL131 “is conventionally bred (non-GM) rice.” However, this is not the first time CL131 has been found to contain trace amounts of genetically modified material. A week earlier, Dr. DeHaven said an already-approved GM trait was also identified in the rice. Both findings come months after an unapproved strain of GM rice, Bayer CropScience’s Liberty Link Rice 601, was found last summer in grain elevators.
The CL131 incident is especially notable in respect to the approaching spring planting season. It is possible that some planters have already sown CL131, according to USDA spokeswoman Andrea McNally.
Rice is one of several commodities that reveal an emerging pattern of GM contamination. GM crops have been documented to pass their traits to non-modified plants and are often not being adequately regulated. Last month, a U.S. District judge ruled that USDA violated federal environmental law by failing to conduct an environmental impact statement on genetically engineered alfalfa seeds before deregulating them in 2005. (To read more stories on genetic engineering, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Daily News archive.)
TAKE ACTION: Beyond Pesticides is opposed to the use of genetically engineered crops because they can endanger our environment and our health. To avoid genetically engineered foods, buy USDA certified organic products and ask your supermarket to label GM food.