Food watchdog facing legal action over GM riceFoE brands government response 'scandalous'

18 September 2006

Britain's food safety watchdog is facing a legal challenge over claims it's not doing enough to keep genetically modified (GM) rice off supermarket shelves.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) says it has taken the first step in bringing a judicial review against the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

This comes after FoE claimed it found GM material in two types of own-brand rice sold in Morrisons supermarkets. The supermarket has since withdrawn the rice as a precautionary measure.

Friends of the Earth sent several samples for tests after it emerged last month that US rice had been contaminated with a GM variety grown in trials but never marketed.

The EU immediately introduced emergency measures to prevent importation of contaminated rice but the FSA said it had not carried out tests of products on the market and did not require retailers to test either.

Scandalous and unlawful

A spokeswoman said: 'This is because safety assessments carried out by independent UK exporters and the European Food Safety Authority do not suggest it poses a food safety risk.'

But FoE said it had sent a formal legal letter to the FSA, which was the first step in bringing a judicial review.

FoE spokesman Phil Michaels said: 'The FSA's response to this GM contamination incident is scandalous and, we believe, unlawful.

'It has failed to act adequately to prevent illegal GM rice reaching our plates and has failed to provide accurate advice and information as it is required to do by law.

'Instead it has concentrated on playing down the seriousness of the issue and minimising the effect on business. We have now resorted to legal action to force the FSA to do its job properly and to ensure that adequate steps are taken to protect UK consumers from illegal GM-contaminated food.'