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Fear of dumping

The Star (Malaysia)

April 24, 2007

Fear of dumping

RICE farmers in northern Peninsular Malaysia have another reason to call on the Government to quit the on-going Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the United States.

Besides the concern over highly subsidised US rice competing with locally produced rice, there is fear of the US dumping the Liberty Link 601 (LL601) contaminated rice here.

In August, contamination of the Bayer CropScience genetically modified (GM) rice variety came to light and triggered a worldwide scare resulting in import suspensions, recalls and law suits. The LL601, named after the brand of herbicide it is engineered to be tolerant to, has not been evaluated for commercial planting and human consumption. The contamination is believed to have occurred during poorly regulated field trials.

Research associate of the US Consumer Union Dr Michael Hansen warned of Malaysia’s vulnerability to imports of GM-contaminated rice as there was no plan to destroy the crop.

“Malaysia should resist and demand testing of any US rice for traits of LL601,” he urged.

Although the Food Safety and Quality Division of the Health Ministry facility to test GM organisms is ready, the Biosafety Bill that provides the legal framework to do so is currently only into its second reading in Parliament. It is learnt that US bio-tech companies have pressured Malaysia to drop Section 61 of the Bill, on making labelling of GM products mandatory. Clause 61 is one of the 58 contentious points that have stalled the US-Malaysia FTA talks.

Hansen urged Malaysia to request for reference materials and genetic characterisations of all commercially approved GM crops from the bio-tech industry to facilitate testing.

“Consumers have the right to know what they are eating,” he said.

Another contamination case occurred in China, involving the strain Xianyou Bt63, engineered to be resistant to insects. Greenpeace’s investigation in 2005 found that research institutes and seed companies in China have sold unapproved GM rice seeds to farmers.

 source: The Star