Unapproved genetic material in CL131 rice identified

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the unapproved genetic material found recently in Clearfield 131 rice was an herbicide tolerant protein approved for certain other crops but not for rice.

APHIS on March 22 said it had identified LLRICE604 as the source of the unapproved bioengineered material found in CL131. LLRICE604 was developed by Bayer CropScience for herbicide tolerance as part of the LLRICE600 series. The protein in LLRICE604 has a long history of safe use and is present in many deregulated products, APHIS said, but it has not been approved for rice and approval had not been requested.

The agency issued emergency action notifications since March 4 to distributors and processors of CL131 to stop distribution and planting of the variety. CL131 is a popular variety and was previously planted on up to 17% of long-grain rice acreage, but it was thought only three acres had been planted with the variety yet this year. The plants on those acres had to be destroyed.

Although CL131 remains prohibited from being planted, APHIS said it would not prevent movement of existing supplies from previous crop years on the market because the Food and Drug Administration had concluded the presence of rice from the LLRICE600 series at low levels in food and feed would pose no safety concerns.

The investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the release of the material and whether any U.S.D.A. regulations were violated was continuing, APHIS said.

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