Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

EU imposes stiff controls to block Chinese GM rice

  • Rice. EU states remain very much divided on the question of GMOs (Photo: Rick Collier)

EU member states have slapped rigid new controls on all imports of Chinese rice products in the wake of ever-increasing detection of products 'contaminated' with unauthorised genetically modified rice.

Following a near unanimous decision by experts sitting on the bloc’s food safety committee, Europe will now require 100 percent of all consignments of rice originating in China to be certified as meeting EU standards.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Until now, whenever China submitted analytical reports to the EU showing that a shipment was GM free, the bloc has performed only random spot checks on consignments to verify these reports.

But in 2010, the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed - the border control warning system - issued 47 alerts over the presence of GM rice in Chinese imports.

As a result, on Tuesday, Europe’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health - a group of national officials from the EU member states - has decided that all consignments of rice products originating in China will be verified.

Currently, no GM rice products are authorised in the EU, and some of the alerts involve GM rice products that are not authorised in China itself.

The problem dates back some time, with the commission adopting an emergency measure in 2008 to impose controls on Chinese rice products entering the union.

All representatives of member states on the food safety committee apart from one approved the tougher measures on Tuesday. No unanimity is required to pass the measure. The new controls will be reviewed in six months.

However, the urgency of the EU manoeuvre contrasts with the scale of the China-Europe rice trade. The Middle Kingdom only exports some €50-55 million worth of rice products to the EU every year, equivalent to around 50,000 tonnes, according to the commission.

No to Chinese rice, divided on US soybean

Separately, the same committee today found itself divided over approval of the import of two GM soybean products from Monsanto and Bayer.

The European Food Safety Authority had given favourable scientific assessments to both products, saying they were as safe as their non-GM counterparts for humans and animals.

One of the soybeans had previously been authorised for import by the same Standing Committee, but now, upon reassessment after the original authorisation ran out, the bean has not been seen in so favourable a light.

Some 95 percent of soybean imports, which are mainly used for animal feed, are genetically modified.

The EU is in effect a GM-free zone in terms of cultivation, with only two items, a corn plant and a potato approved for growing in the bloc, and even there, only a handful of states themselves permit this.

While there are 165 million hectares around the world growing GM products, there are just 100,000 hectares in the EU.

But a total of 43 GM products that are not grown in the EU can however be imported.

As the Standing Committee was unable to reach the required majority either in favour or against the soybeans’ approval, the decision now passes for the first time ever to a GMO Appeal Committee.

The GMO Appeal Committee has yet to be constituted, and so the precise composition has yet to be decided, although member-state representatives from some level - whether diplomat, national official or expert - will be involved.

If the GMO Appeal Committee also cannot muster a majority either in favour or against - a situation that is quite likely, it is the European Commission that makes the final decision, based on the assessment of the scientists in EFSA.

As EFSA has already said that these two soybeans are safe, the commission would in this case likely give the green light to them.

The Appeal Committee is to debate the status of the soybeans within six weeks, and so a decision will probably be taken by the end of the year.

MEPs want wider scope for national GMO bans

Members of the European Parliament's environment committee have said national governments should be allowed to ban GMO cultivation on environmental grounds.

EU states to discuss 'reasons' for national GMO bans

EU environment ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday will discuss a list of possible reasons why individual member states could opt to ban the cultivation of genetically-modified crops in future.

'New dawn' for GMOs after EU vote, green groups warn

EU member state experts have voted to allow tiny quantities of unapproved genetically modified crops into the Union in the form of animal feed, prompting fierce condemnation from environmental groups who say the decision sets a dangerous new precedent.

Commission gambit could end GMO impasse

In a potentially risky gamble to end an EU impasse over the cultivation of GM organisms, the European Commission is to propose a plan that both eases the ability for anti-GM member states to ban them and lets those countries that favour the technology move full-speed ahead with planting.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  2. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London
  3. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  4. UK announces EEA trade deal ahead of EU summit
  5. Four European cities among world's most expensive
  6. Violent 'yellow vest' protesters ban in Paris
  7. Russia celebrates fifth anniversary of Crimea annexation
  8. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  2. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  3. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  4. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  5. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  6. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  7. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections
  8. The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us