LONDON, UK, June 1, 2005 (ENS): Greenpeace
International and GeneWatch UK today opened the world's
first online register that lists incidents of genetic
contamination with engineered organisms. The searchable
website details all the known cases of genetic contamination
of food, animal feed, seeds and wild plants that have
taken place worldwide.
Timed to coincide with the ongoing meeting of Parties
to the Biosafety Protocol now considering rules to guide
international trade in genetically modified organisms,
the new register shows that 27 countries have experienced
genetic contamination of food, animal feed, seeds or
"This register is being launched at the moment
when governments are meeting in Montreal to decide on
international liability regulations for GM crops,"
said Greenpeace campaigner Doreen Stabinsky. "The
sheer number of contamination incidents collected in
the register to date makes it clear that unless states
take action to set strict rules now, GM crops will further
spiral out of control."
The register lists a total of 62 cases where genetically
modified organisms either contaminated other plants
or failed to perform according to the manufacturers'
promises. The largest number of these, 11 incidents,
have taken place in the United States, which is the
country where most genetically modified crops are grown.
Some incidents listed are cases of contamination, such
as the protein from genetically modified Starlink maize
that has been found in seven countries - Canada, Bolivia,
Egypt, Japan, Nicaragua, South Korea, and the United
In 2000, StarLink maize, or corn, was discovered in
taco shells being sold for human consumption even though
it was approved only for animal feed. There are concerns
that its Cry9C gene sequences could be a human allergen.
The manufacturer, Aventis, was forced to remove StarLink
from sale and a formal recall order was issued by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture for all 350,000 acres
of StarLink corn planted across the United States in
2000. Although the U.S. government has purchased over
$13 million of Starlink seed since then, the Cry9C gene
sequences were still being detected in seed in 2003,
possibly because contaminated seed has been used in
hybrid seed production.
Other incidents in the new register are cases of failure
to perform. In 1997, 54 farmers in Mississippi sought
compensation when Monsanto cotton genetically modified
for tolerance to the Monsanto herbicide Roundup failed
to grow properly. Bolls were deformed and some fell
The Arbitration Council, which moderates between farmers
and seed companies, ruled that the Monsanto’s
Roundup Ready cotton failed to perform as advertised
and recommended payments of nearly $2 million to the
three farmers who had not settled out of court.
In Canada, the register lists the first evidence of
genetic contamination of a wild relative as a result
of commercial growing of a genetically modified crop.
A herbicide tolerance gene from genetically modified
oilseed rape, Brassica napus, was found in wild turnip
While the register documents discoveries of contamination
reported by a wide variety of government and academic
sources, Greenpeace claims at least one discovery of
In April, Greenpeace found that genetically modified
rice, unapproved for human consumption, has been planted
and sold illegally in China for the past two years.
Investigations found samples of rice seed as well as
unmilled and milled rice containing transgenic strains.
An independent testing laboratory confirmed the presence
of transgenic DNA in 19 samples. Two of the samples
tested positive for the Bt protein indicating they were
Bt rice - a form which has been genetically engineered
to produce an inbuilt pesticide.
Although genetically modified crops were grown on over
80 million hectares (197.7 million acres) worldwide
in 2004, there is no global monitoring system.
"No government or international agency has yet
established a public record of contamination incidents
or of other problems associated with GM crops,"
said Dr. Sue Mayer, director of GeneWatch UK.
GeneWatch UK is a not-for-profit group that monitors
developments in genetic technologies from a public interest,
environmental protection and animal welfare perspective.
GeneWatch believes people should have a voice in whether
or how these technologies are used and campaigns for
safeguards for people, animals and the environment.
"Turning a blind eye is not good enough when dealing
with a technology like GM because it involves the uncontrolled
release of living organisms into the environment,"
Mayer said. "We hope this register will form an
important resource for citizens and regulators in the
The register is found online at: www.gmcontaminationregister.org
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