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 States.
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 in 2003.
While the register documents discoveries of contamination reported
by a wide variety of government and academic sources, Greenpeace
claims at least one discovery of contamination.
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
"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 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 future."
The register is found online at: www.gmcontaminationregister.org
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