Scale of GM rice contamination in the US / Thresholds are "a minefield" (6/9/2006)

1.Scale of GM rice contamination in the US - Dr Brian John
2.Thresholds are "a minefield" - Dr Jeremy Sweet

GM WATCH COMMENT: The following statement by Dr Paul Rylott, former head of Bayer CropScience UK, is particularly illuminating given the current contamination fiasco affecting US rice thanks to an unapproved Bayer GM variety that was only ever supposed to be grown in field trials.

Dr Rylott was replying to a question about whether there was "any danger of cross-pollination" from GM crop trials:

"OK, we know that cross-pollination will occur but we've got thirty years of experience to say we know how far pollen will travel. And therefore what we've done is we'll grow a GM crop at a distance away from a non-GM crop, so the people that want non-GM can buy non-GM, and the people that want GM can buy GM. The two will not get mixed up. Everybody will have the right to choose."


1.Scale of GM rice contamination in the US
*190 trials had no checks for outcrossing and contamination*

Dr Brian John

In a previous message (3 September) I suggested that around 50 sites had been used by Bayer and its contracted research institutions (like Louisiana State university) for testing and developing LL rice varieties. The scale of planting (and contamination) is even larger. In Doug Gurian-Sherman's excellent report published by the Center for Food Safety in June, the following facts emerge:

1. In the USA over the last decade or so, there have been 195 rice field trials. Of those, 111 were for herbicide resistant varieties such as the LL varieties tested by Bayer.

2. The total acreage of the 195 trials was c 5.000 acres.

3. There were 13 large field trials (50 acres or more) involving GM rice. The average size of these large field trials was 327 acres, and the largest trial saw GM rice planted on 1,259 acres.

4. Only 5 out of the 195 field trials have environmental assessments completed. This means that for the other 190 field trials, nobody has bothered to check what sort of outcrossing there may have been into other rice crops grown nearby, or into wild relatives such as red rice.

5. In spite of obtaining deregulation for LL06 and LL62 in the USA, there appear to have been no commercial growings since the one at Garrett Farms, between Alvin and Angleton, Brazoria County, Texas in the 2000 growing season. The bulk of that crop (over 2,000 tonnes) was dumped into a hole in the ground in 2001, and no rice from that harvest was supposed to enter the food chain.

A damning indictment of the lack of regulatory controls in the US, the scale of field experiments involving GM crops, and the scale of contamination of wild relatives.

Contaminating the Wild?
Doug Gurian-Sherman
Center for Food Safety, June 2006, 55 pp

See also:

"The vast majority of field trials, currently about 95%, are conducted under simplified notifications that require no Environmental Assessment. These notifications require only that any problems noticed during the field trials are reported to APHIS. But as widely recognized, without specific testing for environmental harm, most problems may not be detected."

2.Thresholds are a "a minefield"

Dr Jeremy Sweet was formerly Head of the Environmental Research Group at NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) and is a member of a European panel, established by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which provides scientific advice on a range of issues concerning GMOs, including food, biosafety and environmental impact, to the European Commission and Parliament.

The following are extracts from what Dr Sweet said about GM contamination during the UK Government's GM Science Review.

Dr Sweet describes the whole area of thresholds as a "a minefield."


"We looked at a combine harvester leaving actually a GM rape field... We found 6 kilos of seed in that combine harvester. It then went into a field of barley and harvested the barley, and that barley flushed out the rape seed and it all dropped into the ground. Now if you start doing that repeatedly on the farm you very rapidly start to have oil seed rape spread all around the farm and occurring in seed banks, and it becomes quite difficult to manage."

on thresholds:

"Well first of all people who have studied oil seed rape in seed banks have found that you get this persistence of a low level, of about 100 plants per square metre persisting for several years. It could be up to 10 years. If 1% of those seeds germinated that would give you 1 volunteer per square metre. Now oil seed rape is sown at about 60 to 100 seed per square metre, so 1 volunteer would be approximately 1%. We then looked at NIAB at what that means. If you have 1% of GM volunteer coming up in a field, what does that mean in the harvested seed? And we found that it varied according to variety. In the variety Apex it gave you 0.9% in the harvested seed. In Pronto, which is a restored hybrid, it gave you 1.2% and in Synergy with is a varietal association with low male fertility it gave us 2.4%. So there is a problem there that if you do get volunteers coming up, GM volunteers coming up in your subsequent non-GM crop, you could end up creeping up over the threshold levels.

"Yes, I mean at the moment the European Union are suggesting a threshold of 0.9% [for approved GMO content] for crops for production and there are also recommendations for thresholds for seed production, which are 0.3% for maize and oil seed rape, 0.5% for sugar b


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