USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced it is taking action to prevent the planting and distribution of Clearfield 131 seed. Testing of the very popular long-grain rice variety has revealed the possible presence of trace levels of genetic material not yet approved for commercialization.

On March 4, APHIS began issuing emergency action notifications (EANs) to inform distributors that CL 131, scheduled for planting this spring, must be held until APHIS can verify and identify the presence of additional genetic material. APHIS directed distributors to begin notifying producers yesterday.

Additional EANs are being issued to affected producers as they are identified.

In a press release, BASF — which has trademarked Clearfield — explained the Clearfield technology makes use of conventionally bred (non-GM) rice with the ability to tolerate the Newpath herbicide. The technology is valuable because it allows growers to control red rice and other tough weeds.

BASF asked for additional testing of Clearfield rice following the recent discovery of trace amounts of LibertyLink (LL) 62 GM events in seed. LibertyLink technology is a product of Bayer CropScience.

Ongoing testing of CL 131 seed has been directed to detecting the presence of LL 62, and another LibertyLink trait, LL 601, both of which are deregulated and approved by federal authorities for human consumption.

On March 1, BASF notified APHIS of independent laboratory test findings on 2005 CL 131 registered rice seed that indicated the presence of LibertyLink GM events, but tested negative for LL 62 or LL 601 — suggesting the presence of an unidentified and possibly regulated GM event. BASF is working with the USDA in an effort to identify the unknown event.

Meanwhile, it is hoped APHIS’ issuance of EANs will keep any additional CL 131 seed from being planted until a determination can be made concerning the identity of the genetic material and the appropriate risk assessment can be conducted. USDA, through its own testing, is in the process of confirming the results reported by BASF.

This is not the first detection of genetically engineered material in Clearfield CL 131 rice seed. Last week, APHIS announced that trace levels of a previously deregulated genetically engineered trait had been identified in Clearfield CL 131.

“BASF notified the USDA immediately after becoming aware of the laboratory findings, and we continue to work cooperatively with USDA on this situation,” said Andy Lee, director of U.S. Business Operations, Crop Protection Products, for BASF. “BASF is steadfastly working to advance a clear and viable production environment for rice producers now and in future growing seasons.”

BASF is in discussions with Bayer CropScience regarding technical assistance to expedite the identification of LL 62, LL 601 or other GM traits to help determine the scope and source of the GM presence in Clearfield seed.