Thursday

19th May 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Lagarde signals summer interest rate hike

European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde signalled an interest rate increase possibly as early as July, but some experts warn for a repeat of the 2011-2012 debt crisis.

News in Brief

  1. Finland expects cut in gas supply after Nato application
  2. Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands push offshore wind
  3. Turkey strong-arms Finland and Sweden on extraditions
  4. Sharp increase in irregular migration to EU
  5. Russia ejects 85 European diplomats
  6. Germany shuts ex-chancellor Schröder's office over Putin ties
  7. Russia soldier pleads guilty to Ukraine war crime
  8. EU to protect Finland and Sweden until they join Nato

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Nordic Bridges unveil latest highlights of Spring programme
  2. EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities
  3. EU and US keen to seize Russian funds for Ukraine
  4. EU to boost solar and renewables rollout to cut Russian gas
  5. Commission grilled on RePowerEU €210bn pricetag
  6. Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy
  7. Watchdog calls for tougher curbs on 'problematic' revolving doors
  8. Borrell: EU arms flow to Ukraine amid 'record' Russian losses

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us