Continuing discovery in the mid-South of non-approved genetically modified rice first in rice for shipment overseas last fall and this spring in planting seed has prompted California rice industry to distance itself from the growing problem.

The California Rice Commission voted this week to support a moratorium on field-testing of all genetically modified (GM) rice cultivars in California for the 2007 crop, and for future crops, until research protocol and safeguards are acceptable to the California Rice Commission.

“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, Calif. “It is imperative that those systems are evaluated and improved.”

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.

California has tested its 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 occurred in California, and there is no commercial production of GM rice in California or elsewhere in the U.S.

In addition, the AB 2622 Advisory Board, authorized by the California Rice Certification Act, will now require 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 this crop year. California already has the strongest law in the U.S. to address market GMO contamination 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.

Last August, USDA announced that trace amounts of regulated, genetically engineered (GE) rice were found in samples taken from commercially produced Southern long grain rice not produced present in California. This spring planting seed of two popular rice varieties were pulled from the market this spring when GMO contamination was discovered. California rice producers produce more than 500,000 acres of rice annually, contributing a half-billion dollars to the economy.

email: hcline@farmpress.com