Dispute boils over GM rice

The Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) said yesterday that it has taken all the necessary steps to prevent the sale of illegally imported modified rice in Greece but admitted it has limited power to pull harmful food items off supermarket shelves. The authority’s president was responding to accusations from environmentalists Greenpeace that the food watchdog is failing to do its job after large amounts of the illegal US rice were found being sold by a large supermarket chain. The watchdog’s president Ioannis Vlemmas said that it conducted checks on retailers and instructed them to stop selling the items while also making the necessary public announcements. «EFET immediately notified the consumer public to avoid purchasing and consuming the particular food item and commercial brand,» he said. «The law specifies that the withdrawal of food that does not meet certain conditions is the responsibility of businesses,» he added. Food companies that have not adhered to EFET recommendations may face the prosecutor and could be slapped with hefty fines. EFET accused AB Vassilopoulos and Carrefour Marinopoulos of being slow to withdraw the rice from the market. Greenpeace activists last week removed what they said is genetically modified US rice from the shelves of a Marinopoulos supermarket in Athens. The group said the rice is being sold illegally and accused the government of failing to enforce the law which bans its sale. Greenpeace yesterday responded to Vlemmas’s comments by saying that questions regarding how the food item reached and was distributed in the local market have yet to be answered. «EFET has yet to announce analytical information on the detection of the illegal batch (of rice), its immediate withdrawal, the confiscation and destruction of the illegal food and what protective measures are aimed at avoiding a food scandal,» it said. The group called on the government to temporarily ban all imported long-grain rice from the US until a complete food control system is in place.

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