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Version: 2.0
(October 6, 2006)

Japan Rejects US Rice Exports


Japan has cancelled its contract with the US to import long-grain rice after discovering traces of the genetically modified (GM) rice strain Liberty 601 in a sample of US rice. The Phillippines have subsequently chosen to import only medium grain rice from the US. Liberty 601, developed by Bayer CropScience, has not been approved by the FDA for human consumption.

The European Union has also expressed concern upon detecting the same GM strain in rice imported from the US. The EU is currently considering implementing stringent "testing requirements" upon US rice imports. The European Union prohibits the sale, import, and marketing of GM rice within its borders, citing the possibility of severe allergic reactions to GM food.

The economic and ecological consequences of such contamination are considerable. The US exports 50% of its crops and long-grain rice comprises 80% of that exported food. Commercial (non-experimental) production of Liberty 601 in the US is prohibited by the USDA. Consequently, scientists suspect that the contamination is the product of cross-pollination, meaning that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have begun to breed with natural species. Liberty 601 rice, like many GM organisms, is bred to repel and/or kill pests by secreting pesticides and herbicides. The interbreeding of GMOs with wild or unaltered species could cause inalterable damage to ecosystems, killing "non-target species," irrevocably altering wild plant DNA, and compromising the US's future ability to export food.