GM contamination of crops 'can last for sixteen years' (14/10/2003)

Tractors and trolleys protest pics here:
GM contamination of crops 'can last for sixteen years'

* Curb on GM crop trials after insect pollution
* Britain moves to tighten GM crop trial rules
* GM crops unlikely to remain  contained, study shows

see also: GM contamination of crops 'can last for sixteen years'
The Times, October 14, 2003
Curb on GM crop trials after insect pollution
By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent
Daily Telegraph (UK)

Stringent new rules for trials of genetically modified crops are to be imposed after Government researchers found that insects carried pollen more than six times the distance previously known.

They also found one sowing of GM crops could contaminate non-GM and organic crops for more than 16 years.

The research, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, came as thousands of people protested in London against GM crops and delivered a 70,000-signature petition to Downing Street yesterday.

On Thursday the Government will publish results of field-scale trials of GM crops. They are expected to show a deterioration in farmland biodiversity among at least two of the three GM crops.

Meanwhile, the row between Europe and America over GM crops moved up a gear yesterday when Margot Wallstrom, the Environment Commissioner, accused US biotech companies of "trying to lie" and "force" unsuitable GM technology on to Europe.

She said public suspicion and fears about the technology had been fuelled by US lobbying tactics.

Whitehall sources said the Government was concerned at a public backlash should it decide to commercialise GM crops after considering the results of the farmscale trials.

Yesterday's findings by Government scientists give further cause for concer as well as grounds to back down on the Prime Minister's favoured plan of licensing GM crops next year.

Scientists at the Central Science Laboratory found that GM oilseed rape had cross-pollinated with non-GM oilseed rape plants more than 16 miles away.

A second study by the Scottish Crop Research Institute found that if farmers grew GM oilseed rape for one season it would take 16 years for contamination by wild GM plants produced by seed from the first planting to fall to below one per cent contamination.

Even at this level, the contamination would not be sufficient for a farmer to sell his crop as GM-free or organic, qualities that demand less than 0.9 and 0.1 per cent contamination respectively.

Pete Riley, GM campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "If GM contamination cannot be controlled on test sites, what hope is there if GM crops are widely grown?"

The findings played a part in leading the Government to stipulate new restrictions on test plantings after a biotech company supplied impure, genetically-modified oilseed rapeseed at 12 trial sites.

Elliot Morley, the environment minister, said: "We are determined to have effective systems in place to ensure consumer choice whatever the future of GM in this country."
Britain moves to tighten GM crop trial rules
13 October, 2003

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The UK government moved to tighten rules on future  trials of genetically modified (GM) crops on Monday, but drew criticism from  environmental campaigners for refusing to prosecute German biotech giant  Bayer for breaching its previous restrictions.

Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said it is  introducing the "new, more stringent conditions" after last year's incident  in which Bayer CropScience, the UK arm of Germany's Bayer BAYG.DE ,  inadvertently planted tainted GM rapeseed in trial sites throughout England  and Scotland.

Bayer, which has conceded responsibility for the mixup, supplied government  scientists with the gene-spliced, herbicide-resistant rapeseed since the trials began in 1999.

The discovery that some of the seeds used in the trials last year contained antibiotic material has already raised questions about the credibility of the trials, the results of which are due later this week.

"Although the DEFRA Prosecution Division has advised against prosecution in this case, valuable lessons on enforcement have been learned," Food and Environment Minister Elliot Morley said in a statement.

"In the case of any future research, we will require a detailed description of just how the seed to be tested has been produced," Morley added.

The government confirmed that Bayer would not be prosecuted in England, but it has been left open for Scottish authorities to decide their next move.

Environmentalist campaigners were outraged.

"This just goes to show that even when a supposedly tight regulatory system is in place we still can't cope with the technology," Friends of the Earth's Pete Riley told Reuters.

"If the government can't get even the small-scale trials right, how can we ever hope to manage them on a larger scale?" he said.


Meanwhile, more than a thousand campaigners marched through London on Monday in a protest against GM food and crops.

The parade, entitled "Tractors and Trolleys" was organised by anti-GM lobbyists Friends of the Earth, the Five-Year Freeze campaign, GM-free Wales and the Genetic Engineering Network.

Organiser Tony Juniper said the group would be handing a petition of more than 70,000 signatures calling for a "GM-free Britain" to 10 Downing Street, before moving on to a rally in Westminster, to be addressed by outspoken former environment minister Micheal Meacher.


The UK government is preparing to unveil its farm-scale trial results on Thursday.

The published results will then be forwarded to the government's GM think-tank ACRE, which will later advise the government on whether they should be grown commercially.

Opponents of the technology say the government should delay its decision on whether to endorse GM crops and conduct much more research into their effects on the environment and human health.

Environmental lobby groups fear that "superweeds" could start growing across the countryside due to cross-pollination between GM and conventional plants while proponents of organic food are worried their produce will become contaminated by the new varieties.

The UK's Guardian newspaper recently said the trial results would show that herbicides used with two of the three GM crops tested -- rapeseed and sugar beet -- were harmful to the environment, while GM maize was not.

In a separate move, DEFRA said the European Union's decision to ban the herbicide atrazine from future use would not render the trial results invalid because more one brand had been tested on the crop.
GM crops unlikely to remain  contained, study shows
By Danielle Demetriou
The Independent, 14 October 2003

Genetically modified crops may not remain self-contained, according to a Government study published yesterday which revealed bees are able to carry pollen up to 16 miles away, .
Stringent regulations are likely to be enforced on future GM crop trials, after the study discovered that pollen could travel eight times further than  previously thought.
A second report found that after GM oilseed rape was grown, it would take 16 years before conventional crops could be grown without fear of breaching the maximum 1 per cent contamination threshold.
The findings, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, coincided with protests from about 1,000 anti-GM campaigners who marched through central London.
The first study, conducted by the Scottish Crops Research Institute, raises question about previous research in Canada and the UK which claimed the pollen of GM crops could travel only 2.5 miles.
Using "bait plants", it found that contamination could take place as far afield as 16 miles from the original site. While long distance transfer was described as rare, and resulted in a dilution gene flow, the study revealed that bees were the key culprits. They carried the pollen back to the hive then swapping it with other pollen, resulting in the fertilisation of plants.
The second study revealed that unless weeds from GM crops were stringently controlled, there was a risk of contaminating conventional crops for up to 16 years. To ensure crops were not contaminated, weedkiller would have to be sprayed regularly.

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