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The discovery of genetically manipulated rice in supermarkets in southwestern Germany has for the first time been officially confirmed by agricultural authorities, after EU reports of GM rice elsewhere in the country.
Gentically modified rice is banned in the Euopean Union
Traces of LL601, a type of genetically manipulated rice from the US, were found in a product called "fit for fun Trix Reis-Mix Triathlon" sold at the Edeka supermarket chain in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
The ministry of agriculture in Stuttgart examined 46 rice samples, of which seven tested positive for genetically manipulated material, reported Germany's Southwestern Radio Online. Of these, four came from rice produced in the US. The origin of the other three positive samples is unknown.
Biotech rice is not allowed to be grown, sold or marketed in the EU.
Earlier EU reports of contaminated rice
Greenpeace made initial claims in the Aldi GM rice case
The findings in Baden-Wurttemberg come just on the heels of reports concerning the discovery of LL601 in rice packages sold at the Aldi Nord supermarket chain in the northern regions of Germany.
The European Federation of Rice Millers had tested 162 shipments of rice imported from the United States. 33 of them tested positive for genetically modified rice, the European Commission said in a statement on Monday.
"Any consignments which tested positive have already been recalled or withheld from the market and the Federation's members have committed to continuing such withdrawals for any positive findings," the commission said Monday.
Greenpeace genetics expert Ulrike Brendel said that the Aldi products, sold under the Bon-Ri brand, had been contaminated with a strain of rice developed by German industrial giant Bayer and tested in the United States.
"We tested the samples at a respected and independent laboratory," Brendel said. "The results show some of the rice has been modified using a method developed and published by Bayer --there's no doubt about it."
A tainted biotech product
Rice found in eight of Aldi Nord's 35 sales areas contained traces of LL601-- a rice strain engineered by Bayer to resist certain Bayer herbicides.
Both Aldi and Edeka have removed the rice products in question from shelves
Aldi Nord said documentation for the rice imports showed no signs of shipments containing genetically modified rice, but it removed the affected products from its shelves and was testing the countries of origins of other similar products.
The European Commission's findings suggested GM material had been finding its way into the European market for some time. Considering that Germany imports about one quarter of its rice from the US, Brendel thought it was inevitable that a number of products and supermarket chains would be affected.
"This modified strain of rice was planted in the US in 2001, but only as a test crop," Brendel said. "The fact we're finding it here in imports shows that industry isn't capable of controlling genetically modified crops. We don't know what human health or environmental risks involved. If we want to keep food sources free of genetically modified material, then we can't afford to plant GM crops."
Declaring war on biotech rice
Germany imported 46,500 tons of rice from the US in 2005 alone
Last month the European Commission slapped stringent testing requirements on rice imports from the US to try and stop genetically modified varieties from entering the 25 country-bloc.
At the end of August, Germany's federal ministry of consumer protection ordered state-level authorities to step up their detection efforts.
France and Sweden have also discovered traces of a banned genetically modified substance in imported US rice, in tests which must be confirmed by EU laboratories, a European Commission source said Tuesday.