The huge and growing burden of contamination of non-GE crops by genetically engineered variants is highlighted today, as Greenpeace and GeneWatch publish “The GM contamination register report”, which provides a detailed overview of the significant contamination events from around the world(1) in 2006.
The report shows that GE contamination reached record levels in 2006 with a total of twenty-four major incidents reported. The complete online register (www.gmcontaminationregister.org) (2) details 142 cases of unintended release, illegal planting and harmful agricultural impacts of GE crops, recorded from around the world in the last decade.
The launch of the report coincides with an international meeting of legal and technical experts in Montreal, who are considering whether companies manufacturing GE seeds should be liable for the economic and environmental damage caused when these varieties contaminate non-GE crops. Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK are calling on the negotiators to put in place a binding international regime to enforce this liability.
“As our report has shown, there is an urgent need for a strong liability treaty,” said Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace International. “2006 has been the worst year yet for GE contamination. A strong treaty would make sure that companies profiting from the technology are made to pay for the economic and environmental damage caused by their products. Without liability protection, it is small farmers around the world who will pay the price.”
GE maize is one of the most problematic crops, according to the report. GE maize was involved in nearly one-third of all contamination incidents over the last decade, with four incidents of maize seed contamination (in four different countries) reported in 2006. Contamination of maize seed is a serious problem for both farmers and consumers around the world, but particularly in areas where traditional varieties are still grown. Even though Mexico the birthplace of maize does not currently allow field trials or commercial farming of GE maize, traditional varieties of maize have been contaminated. Brazil also a centre of diversity for maize and home of many valuable indigenous varieties is also identified as being at high risk.
Becky Price from GeneWatch UK said, “Contamination from genetically engineered crops is a growing problem that countries must take seriously in order to protect farmers’ and consumers’ choice to grow and eat GE-free food. By linking contamination to economic penalties for biotechnology companies, we stand a much higher chance of protecting the world’s food and seed supplies for future generations.”
Notes to Editor
- The report contains maps depicting the location of global contamination incidents in 2006. To view and download the maps, please visit: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/gm-contamination-register-repo/gm-contamination-report-regist
- The GM contamination register is a biosafety information resource included on the official UN Biosafety Clearinghouse website. https://bch.biodiv.org/database/record.shtml?id=11886
- The working group is meeting under the auspices of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a global treaty on genetically engineered organisms, in Montreal from 19 February to 23 February. www.biodiv.org
Further contact information
- for reporters to get video, photos or report details
Namrata Chowdhary, Greenpeace International Communications: +31 646 1973 27
Becky Price, Researcher, GeneWatch UK. +44-7949-396-328
Doreen Stabinsky, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International. +1-202-285-7398