The European Commission's decision to require testing of all imports of U.S. long grain rice is an “overreaction” that will only result in the denial of a safe product to Northern European rice millers, USA Rice Federation officials said.

The European Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain announced the decision earlier this week following extended negotiations between USDA and EC representatives following the discovery of unapproved GMO rice in U.S. commercial rice.

“The decision yesterday (Oct. 23) by an European Commission committee to impose mandatory testing in all imports of U.S. long-grain rice entering the European Union is an unfortunate overreaction to a commodity that governments — including the EU — have already declared safe for human consumption,” said Al Montna, USA Rice chairman.

“The Commission is imposing an overzealous testing regime on a product for which such strictures are unnecessary. The net result of this decision is the denial to European consumers of wholesome U.S. rice, the economic consequences of which are clearly avoidable.”

USA Rice officials said they were grateful for the efforts by a team of U.S. negotiators, led by Floyd Gaibler, acting undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services.

“While we are extremely disappointed that European officials were unable to agree to a practical and commercially viable solution on the issue of testing, we are very appreciative of the prolonged and aggressive negotiation done on behalf of the U.S. rice industry by U.S. officials,” said Carl Brothers, chairman of USA Rice International Trade Policy Committee and senior VP, Riceland Foods, Inc.

“We look forward to working again with government officials during the review period that will begin early next year as provided by the Standing Committee's action. The U.S. rice industry believes it is in everyone's interest, from U.S. rice producers and exporters to EU rice importers, consumers and the EU Commission to resolve this issue so that trade can resume,” Brothers said.

In August, laboratory tests confirmed that a sample of 2003 foundation seed rice of the variety Cheniere grown by the LSU AgCenter contained a trace amount of genetic material from LL601 — a LibertyLink genetically modified rice.

The test results also indicated Cheniere foundation seed grown in 2005 appeared to be free of Liberty Link 601.

Those tests, validated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, also indicated lots from 13 other varieties currently in the LSU AgCenter's foundation seed program also appeared to be free of LL601. The other varieties involved in the initial testing included Cocodrie, Cypress, Trenasse, Pirogue, Bengal, Jupiter, Clearfield 131 and Clearfield 161.

Rice prices fell following the announcement but have since recovered some of those losses.