GeneWatch PR: First on-line worldwide register of GM contamination incidents launched today

Embargoed 08.01GMT Wednesday 1. June 2005

GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International Press Release:

Amsterdam/Buxton, 1 June 2005 -- Today, GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International are launching the first on-line register of genetically modified (GM – also known as genetically engineered, GE) contamination incidents. The on-line, searchable web site gives details of all the known cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed and wild plants that have taken place worldwide.

"No Government or international agency has established a public record of contamination incidents or other problems associated with GM crops. This register has been established because the official approach of ‘turning a blind eye’ is not good enough when dealing with a technology like GM where living organisms are released to the environment", said Dr. Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK’s Director. "We hope this register will form an important resource for citizens and regulators in the future."

Since their introduction in 1996, GM crops have contaminated food, feed, seed and the environment right across the globe. Over 60 incidents of illegal or unlabelled GM contamination have been documented in 27 countries on 5 continents, and those are only the recorded incidents. The register (which can be found at also gives links to more information about the incidents. Cases of illegal releases of GM organisms and negative agricultural side-effects are also included.

"This register is being launched when governments are meeting in Montreal to decide on liability regulations for GM crops. If states don’t act and set strict rules now, GM crops will further contaminate lands, seeds and food around the world" said Doreen Stabinsky, of Greenpeace International.

Highlights from the register:

  • 27 countries have experienced a total of 63 cases of GM contamination of food, feed, seed or wild plants.
  • The largest number of contamination incidents have taken place in the USA (11 incidents).
  • Contamination from StarLink maize was found in 7 countries: USA, Canada, Egypt, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Japan and South Korea.
  • Illegal releases of GM crops into the environment or food chain have taken place in India (cotton), Brazil (cotton and soya), China (rice), Croatia (maize), Europe, Germany (papaya) and Thailand (cotton and papaya).
  • Six cases of negative agricultural side-effects have been recorded including deformed cotton bolls and the emergence of herbicide tolerant ‘super-weeds’.

For more information:

Dr. Sue Mayer, GeneWatch UK +44 1298 871898

Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace International +1 202 285 7398

Notes to editors:

Two maps of the contamination incidents are available on the web site:

Incidents of GM contamination, illegal releases and negative agricultural side-effects worldwide.

  • All the countries affected by a GM contamination incident are shown in this map produced using data from the register
  • Since the first GM tomatoes were grown commercially in the USA in 1995, and followed by Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996, there have been a range of different incidents of GM contamination and illegal plantings. This register has records of 63 incidents of contamination, 10 illegal releases and 6 negative agricultural side-effects (some incidents fall into more than one category). The map shows how they are distributed worldwide.

How StarLink contamination spread around the world

  • A new map shows how Starlink maize contamination has spread from the US.
  • In September 2000, sampling by a coalition of public interest groups in the US, showed that a variety of GM maize known as StarLink was present in taco shells being sold for human consumption even though it was not approved for this use and should only have been used for animal feed. The StarLink maize, produced by Aventis (now Bayer CropScience), is genetically modified to contain a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis coding for an insecticidal Bt toxin known as Cry9C. Unlike the Cry1A and Cry3A Bt toxins used in other GM crops, it is heat stable and does not break down in gastric acid – characteristics shared by many allergens.
  • Before the Starlink maize contamination was detected, it was exported from the US and has now been found in a whole range of countries as this map, produced using data from the register, illustrates.

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