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GMO-FREE REGIONS / PRODUCTS: EU Ag chief sees increased Indiannon-GM rice imports

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  INTERVIEW: EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports
AUTHOR: Dow Jones Newswires, by Sameer Mohindru
DATE:   06.03.2007

INTERVIEW: EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports

NEW DELHI (Dow Jones)--The European Union's rice imports from Asian
countries such as India may increase after consignments from the U.S.
were found to have traces of unauthorized genetic modification last
year, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Tuesday.

"We have asked the U.S. to provide us with evidence that rice
consignments to E.U. doesn't contain the unapproved genetic
modification," Boel told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview. "(Such
U.S. consignments) become more expensive and therefore the E.U. is also
looking eastwards at other markets (to buy rice)."

India's rice exports to Europe are mostly restricted to basmati in
husked or brown form, a type of rice famous for its aroma, grain length
and cooking flavor but grown only in small pockets of the Indian
subcontinent, including Pakistan.

Last year the E.U. placed control requirements on rice imports from the
U.S. after shipments were found to contain an unauthorized biotech
strain made by Bayer CropScience, a unit of German biochemical company
Bayer AG (BAY).

That GM rice - Liberty Link 601 - has since been approved and is now
considered "deregulated" by the USDA but the E.U. has zero tolerance for
such rice.

India's rice exporters smell an opportunity in this development to ship
non-Basmati rice to the E.U.

"I don't exclude that possibility (of higher rice imports from India)
but they have to be...not low quality," Boel said.

She said the E.U. won't relax its quality controls on GM crops including
rice from the U.S. as it will harm consumer interests.

"We have to be stringent to maintain confidence of the European
consumers that when they buy something and it is not labeled, it is not
derived from the GM product. This is crystal clear," said Boel.

Boel said since Basmati is unique to the Indian subcontinent there needs
to be strict tests to ensure there is no contamination in its shipments
to the E.U.

She said discussions are ongoing with Indian authorities with regards to
testing of basmati.

India undertakes quality tests on Basmati consignments before they are
shipped out of the country. However, Boel said the consignments need to
be tested for authenticity in the E.U. as well.

"We are looking into the possibility to be able to verify the value of
the quality tests in the E.U.," said Boel.

Brown basmati is subject to import tariff concessions because of its
unique origin in the Indian subcontinent.

To a query about whether the E.U. will consider granting such
concessions on non-Basmati rice and white rice as well, Boel said such
requests from India could be negotiated upon as part of a proposed
comprehensive trade and investment agreement with India.

The E.U. and India plan to negotiate a broadbased agreement on trade and
investment under which import tariff on 90% of the commodities will be
reduced to zero over a period of seven years.

"Of course I am sure India will defend heavily to include rice in such
an agreement," said Boel.

EU Unlikely To Be Regular Wheat Supplier To India

Boel also said she didn't expect E.U. to be a regular wheat supplier to India.

India recently imported wheat of E.U. origin after a large domestic
shortfall forced it to enter the global market after six years.

"It was a very special situation in India as it was low on output (in
2006). I don't consider it to be a normal transaction in the coming
years," she said.

Boel said traditionally bulk production of wheat in the E.U. isn't very
competitive because under E.U. farm legislation tough conditions are
imposed on farmers relating to environment and levels of food security,
making it more expensive.

She said global prices of wheat have been firm in the past several
months due to low yields in producing countries such as Australia and
demand from countries such as India. She also said prices of foodgrains
in general also increased in recent months due to global interest in
manufacturing biofuels from commodities such as corn.

"It is the transitional period for biofuels. First generation of
biofuels are being made from commodities meant for human consumption,"
she noted.

Boel said researchers have now taken over the task of making second
generation biofuels from waste products and straw. She said over the
years this will ease pressure on using commodities traditionally meant
for human consumption.

Turning to sugar, Boel said it is for other countries such as India to
take over markets the E.U. has vacated as part of its reforms in the sector.

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