Japan finds GMO in Canadian flaxseed shipments

Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:12pm EST
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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has found genetically modified flaxseed, which has not been approved by Japan, in imports from Canada, health ministry officials said on Monday.

In Japan, the bulk of flaxseed is used to produce oil for industrial uses such as the production of paint, with the waste from that process used to produce animal feed and some food for human consumption, a farm ministry official said.

"If the GMO material exceeds 1 percent, it cannot be used for animal feed," he said.

Canada is the world's top producer and exporter of flax, a blue-flowering plant also called linseed that produces oil for linoleum flooring and seed for baked goods, as well as animal feed.

European and Japanese consumers are reluctant to eat genetically modified food for fear of unknown longer-term health effects.

Japan imported 11,713 tonnes of flaxseed in 2008, all of which came from Canada, making it Canada's third largest flax market.

The Japanese ministry discovered the GMO material FP967 when it made spot checks on shipments of flaxseed for food use exported by Canmar Grain Products Ltd of Canada, that arrived in Japan in October.

A ministry official said all flaxseed shipments for food use must now be checked to make sure that it has not been contaminated by the GMO material.

The checks will continue until the Canadian government addresses the issue and takes steps to improve the situation, he said. Such inspections usually take about a week to be completed.   Continued...