GM rice on sale prompts legal action

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth has taken the first steps towards a legal challenge against the UK’s Food Standards Agency, accusing it of failing to prevent illegal GM rice from entering the food chain.

The action, which took the form of a preliminary letter ahead of a judicial review, followed the discovery of GM rice in American long-grain rice in supermarket Morrisons.

Even though tests could not confirm that it was the LLRICE601 that has recently cropped up in commercial samples, FoE insists that any GM rice in the UK is illegal.

Its real gripe, however, is a leaked memo from the Food Standards Agency to food retailers and manufacturers that suggests it does not expect them to test for contamination or remove contaminated rice from their shelves.

“The FSA is only planning to test some rice at mills, meaning that any contaminated rice already in shops or warehouses may not be detected and may be sold to unsuspecting consumers,” said an FoE spokesman. “Friends of the Earth believes the FSA has acted unlawfully.”

The European Food Safety Authority, however, issued an opinion last Friday (15 September) that “the consumption of imported long-grain rice containing traces of LLRICE601 is not likely to pose an imminent safety concern to humans or animals”.