GENET archive


REGULATION & POLICY: California Rice Commission (USA) calls formoratorium on GE rice trials

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TITLE:  California Rice Commission supports moratorium on GE field testing
SOURCE: California Rice Commission, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   14.03.2007

California Rice Commission supports moratorium on GE field testing

SACRAMENTO, CA - Following mounting concern over the discovery of trace
levels of genetic material unapproved for commercialization in long
grain rice seed outside of California, the California Rice Commission
voted this morning to support a moratorium "on the field testing of all
genetically modified (GM) rice cultivars in the State of California for
the 2007 crop, and for future crops, until such time as research
protocol and safeguards are acceptable to the California Rice Commission."

It is the position of the industry that a moratorium on GM field testing
in California would allow for an opportunity to evaluate federal
regulations that safeguard the rice industry.

Following the August discovery of GM traits in long grain rice produced
in southern rice growing states, the California rice industry undertook
a comprehensive review of the impacts on markets and potential impacts
on commercially grown rice in the state.

The announcement by APHIS within recent weeks that two additional GM
traits had been discovered in a variety of long grain rice, the
California rice industry voted for a moratorium to evaluate the federal
regulations that are the basis for all GM rice research in the state.

"Based on the events of the last few months, it is clear that the
federal regulatory process is not working for rice," commented Frank
Rehermann, Chair of the CRC Board and a rice producer in Live Oak,
California. "It is imperative that those systems are evaluated and approved."

California has tested is public seed four times since August, all with
non-detect results for Liberty Link varieties LL601, LL62 and LL06. None
of the GM events in question are present in California, and commercial
production of GM rice is currently not occurring in California or
elsewhere in the U.S.

As a precautionary move to further reassure it markets of the integrity
of state's rice, the AB 2622 Advisory Board, as authorized by the
California Rice Certification Act, has adopted the requirement that all
California rice variety owners submit samples for laboratory testing and
confirm a non-detect status to approve those varieties for production in
California during the 2007 crop year.

California already has the strongest body of law in the U.S. to address
market concerns.

Passed in 2000, the California Rice Certification Act provides direction
and establishes measures that enable the industry to regulate new rice
variety introductions and research within the state.

On August 18, 2006, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced
that trace amounts of regulated, genetically engineered (GE) rice were
found in samples taken from commercially produced long grain rice. The
trace amounts in question have only been identified in Southern long
grain rice, in a variety that is not present in California.

For more information about the California Rice Commission and the
California rice industry, go to

The California rice industry is based in the Sacramento Valley. Each
year, California rice producers plant and harvest over 500,000 acres of
rice, contributing a half-billion dollars to the economy and providing
habitat and fodder for 235 species of wildlife along the Pacific Flyway.

Elizabeth Horan
Communications Manager
California Rice Commission
Office: +1-916/387-2264
Cell: +1-916/205-5395

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                                  PART II
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TITLE:  Rice board spurns biotech
SOURCE: The Sacramento Bee, USA
AUTHOR: Jin Downing
DATE:   15.03.2007

Rice board spurns biotech
State commission worries test plants would cut sales overseas

The California Rice Commission on Wednesday called for a moratorium on
experimental plantings of genetically modified rice in the state, saying
federal controls meant to keep such varieties from contaminating
commercial rice are inadequate.

"We have to protect our industry at all costs," said Keith Davis, a
Marysville-area rice farmer who is chairman of a group that has been
reviewing the industry's genetic-engineering policy over the past
several months.

The vote is advisory, but Tim Johnson, president of the Rice Commission,
said it is likely to carry weight with the AB 2622 Advisory Board, which
controls nearly all test plantings of rice in the state.

The decision by the 40-member group meeting in Colusa was driven largely
by concerns that the contamination of the state's rice supplies with
even a tiny amount of genetically engineered material could devastate
sales to touchy export markets such as Japan and South Korea. The
commission represents the state's roughly 1,000 rice farmers and processors.

As much as 40 percent of California's $200 million to $400 million
annual rice harvest is sent overseas. Nearly all of the state's rice
grows in the Sacramento Valley, where it is the most widely planted crop.

Two still-unsolved contamination incidents in the past eight months
elsewhere in the country have demonstrated the market hazards.

Last summer, a rice variety containing a gene for herbicide tolerance
was found in commercial rice in several Southern states. Futures prices
for long-grain rice plunged as European importers demanded that each
shipment be tested. Some other countries banned U.S. rice altogether.

And on March 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued what amounted
to a recall for the seed of a popular type of rice grown in the South
because it was found to have been contaminated with genetic material not
approved for human consumption. Board members say it was this incident
that led to Wednesday's decision.

"Nobody has been able to explain to us what happened in the South,"
Davis said. "We felt that we had a necessary stance to take."

Johnson said that two experimental plantings of genetically engineered
rice were approved in the state in 2006.

The DNA of genetically modified crops has been altered to yield traits
such as herbicide resistance or enhanced nutritional content.
Genetically modified crops are considered safe to eat, but they are
opposed in many nations -- including the United States -- for
ecological, moral and other reasons.

The use of genetically modified seed has become widespread in the corn,
soy and cotton industries, and the technology is broadly endorsed by
mainstream farm groups. But due in large part to export concerns,
genetically modified rice has not been planted by commercial farmers in
the United States or in most other countries in the world.

Last month, after a report documented the strong opposition to
genetically modified rice in several key export markets, a group of 200
Northern California rice farmers called for an end to experimental
plantings of such rice.

Greg Massa, the leader of the group and a longtime opponent of genetic
engineering in rice, seemed almost dazed after Wednesday's meeting.

"I'm still shocked," said Massa, who also holds a seat on the Rice
Commission board. "I went from fighting in this underdog position for
the last 3 1/2 years to being in the majority literally overnight."

Martina Newell-McGloughlin, who directs the Biotechnology Research and
Education Program for the University of California system, had a mixed

"Of course any group wants to protect its market," she said. "But I
think this is fear rather than rational thought."

Newell-McGloughlin said she believes that existing safeguards on
research plantings are adequate.

The Rice Commission's stance could put it in a strange-bedfellows
situation this year as the Legislature debates a bill that would make
firms that produce genetically modified seeds liable for damages if
their product contaminates a field.

The state Farm Bureau opposes the bill. But the Rice Commission may find
itself fighting for it alongside activist groups such as the Washington,
D.C.-based Center for Food Safety.

"If the mainstream is against these things, then maybe we aren't
mainstream," said rice grower Don Bransford.

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                                  PART III
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TITLE:  When it comes to GM crops, the customer is king
SOURCE: California Rice Commission
AUTHOR: Tim Johnson, President & CEO
DATE:   02.03.2007

When it comes to GM crops, the customer is king

Never has this old business adage been more true than in today's charged
climate surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops. While consumer
acceptance at home has warmed, opposition in export markets has risen
sharply. The result has left many in agriculture with a very difficult
decision. The dilemma has become whether to grow GM crops that benefit
our businesses at the risk of losing some customers, or to forgo a
potential technologic leap forward in the hopes of retaining our
customer base.

Seven years ago I made a statement that the GM issue is primarily a
marketing issue. I made that comment during a Senate hearing on the
California Rice Certification Act of 2000. My point was simple: the GM
issue is no different than any of the other quality standards posed by
our customers, such as variety, grade, degree of milling, and a long
list of other contract requirements.

Today, the question remains, how does an industry continue to meet ever-
increasing customer quality specifications in the face of growing
variety and quality differentiation for its product. The answer is a
self-regulated industry that allows different rice varieties to be grown
side by side in a manner that does not impact other rice varieties. In
essence, develop an industry-directed system that allows our industry to
grow for the market.

The California Rice Certification Act, sponsored by the California Rice
Commission, is a mechanism that allows a board of industry members to
evaluate each new rice variety and determine how it should be planted,
transported and processed to ensure it does not mix with other rice
bearing different market characteristics. Currently, this includes
colored bran rice, short grain rice, and specialty mochi rice used for
making Japanese rice crackers. And, if commercial production of GM ever
occurred in the state, this would likely apply to rice with transgenic
traits as well.

Research in the state is similarly evaluated. The board assess whether
research is being conducted in a manner that eliminates cross-
pollination and physical commingling with commercial rice plantings.
Research is also evaluated to make sure that all appropriate safeguards
are in place to prevent disease and pest introductions.

This systematic approach offers a balance between the great potential of
GM crops for farmers - reduced costs, reduced use of pesticides, better
agronomic traits - and the ultimate demand by the consumer for the
product it desires. Developing and enforcing systems that keep rice
varieties separate throughout the growing, transportation and milling
process ensures that when a customer wants a specific product, we can
deliver our product to their specifications.

The California Rice Certification Act resulted from a year-long dialogue
with growers, millers and yes, event the biotech industry. The
discussions were hard. The solutions were well thought out. In the end,
our industry crafted a groundbreaking law. Borrowing from the cotton
industry's model of handling new varieties, and the organic
certification model allowing the industry to develop systems to grow and
keep varieties separate based on customer demands, California's rice
industry created an effective, first of its kind law in the state and
the nation.

Seven years ago our industry developed a mechanism to self-regulate the
introduction of new rice varieties. Today, in the face of change and
continuous challenge, we steadfastly safeguard California's rice
industry and our consumers. We have a process and a law that puts our
customers first.

BYLINE CREDIT: Tim Johnson is the President & CEO of the California Rice
Commission, which represents the entirety of the California rice
industry's 2,500 growers and over 40 marketing organizations.

More information about the California Rice Commission and the rice
industry is available online at

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