USDA is issuing emergency action notifications (EANs) to seed distributors, advising them to hold a rice seed, Clearfield CL131, "because testing by a private company has revealed the possible presence of trace levels of genetic material not yet approved for commercialization." (tip)
This action comes on the heels of a USDA recommendation that California-based Ventria Bioscience be allowed to plant 3,000 acres of genetically-modified rice for pharmaceutical use.
You might think that USDA is putting a halt to sales of the contaminated seed because of public health concerns. You'd be wrong:
APHIS is taking this action because the genetic material detected in Clearfield CL131 seed might be regulated, in which case it would not be approved for commercial use.
That's because companies can patent genetically-modified seed. In this case, the contaminated seed is a registered trademark of German company BASF AG, the world's leading chemical company.
Arkansas state officials say the Clearfield variety apparently carries the Liberty Link RICE601 gene material, a GMO strain made by Bayer CropScience. The rice variety disrupted the U.S. rice industry in the summer of 2006 after the material, which was not cleared for food use, was found in commercial bins in Arkansas and Missouri.
Bayer CropScience is also a German company.
With a track record like this, do we really want USDA to approve planting 3,000 acres of rice seed modified with human genes?
The public comment period on last week's draft Environmental Impact Statement runs until 30 March.