Staple food endangered: EU urged not to approve Bayer´s GM Rice
AUTHOR: CBG Coordination gegen BAYER-Gefahren/Coalition against BAYER-Dangers
The Coalition against Bayer Dangers urges European authorities to refuse an import approval for Liberty Link Rice (LL62) produced by Bayer CropScience. LL62 has been modified with a gene that makes the plant tolerant to glufosinate, a weed-killer produced by Bayer under the brands Basta and Liberty. An approval of this modified rice strain would pose unknown risks for human health and the environment.
Glufosinate is to be phased out in Europe due to its hazardous nature. The herbicide is classified as toxic for reproduction and can also cause birth defects. With LL62, usage levels for glufosinate would increase, also increasing the likelihood of herbicide residues on the rice itself.
A European approval would also allow Bayer to promote GM rice cultivation in developing countries, especially in Asia. This would inevitably lead to genetic contamination of existing rice cultivation, to poisoning of peasants and to the elimination of local rice strains. Europe has a strong moral obligation to take these developments into account when assessing LL62.
Bayer already applied in 2003 to import LL62. The application was rejected several times when voted on in the EU council of ministers, but has so far not been withdrawn. Bayer is also pushing for legal approval in Brazil, South Africa, India and the Philippines. In the USA, LL62 has already been permitted for commercial planting, although farmers in the US are reluctant to plant it because it is not approved for import elsewhere in the world. EU import approvals so far have mainly been granted for genetically manipulated feed crops. Liberty Link rice would be the first GM product intended directly for human food use.
Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition against Bayer Dangers, an international network that has been monitoring Bayer for more than 30 years: “Allowing the import of Liberty Link Rice would give the green light to multinationals to promote this unsustainable form of farming in developing countries. The world`s most important staple food must not fall into the hands of companies like Bayer.” The Coalition has introduced several countermotions on the issue at Bayer´s annual shareholder meetings in recent years.
In July 2006, Bayer LL601, a similar rice variety that was not approved for commercial distribution or human consumption anywhere in the world, appeared in supermarkets worldwide. According to a Greenpeace study the damages amounted to 1.2 billion US$. In December 2009 Bayer was sentenced to pay about $2 million for losses sustained by two US farmers. The verdict of the federal court in St. Louis is seen as a test run for up to 3000 cases brought by other rice farmers in the US. "We call for the stringent application of the precautionary principle with regard to GM rice. The incident in the US shows that risks linked with genetically modified crops cannot be controlled in the long term", Mimkes adds.
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