28 February 2008 – Biotech companies are acting with impunity as cases of genetic engineering contamination continue on a global scale, a new report launched today reveals.
GM Contamination Register Report 2007(1), by GeneWatch UK and Greenpeace International, exposes 39 new instances of crop contamination in 23 countries over the past year. Most of the contamination involved such staple crops as rice and maize, but also included soy, cotton, canola, papaya and fish. Over the past 10 years, the annual Register Report has recorded 216 contamination events in 57 countries.
A key focus of the 2007 report is the contamination and illegal releases that have arisen from crops which were not commercially available. The most extensive has been the contamination of US rice stocks by Bayer Crops Science's herbicide tolerant rice varieties. Since the first incident in 2006 the register has recorded 41 cases in 29. The contamination appears to have arisen from experimental trials that ended in 2001, but the USDA did not pursue a prosecution case because there was not enough documentary evidence to prove wrong doing by the company(2).
The report is published as the UK's Food Standards Agency is faced with yet another rice contamination incident and must plan for the removal of contaminated products and the testing of future imported rice products (3). This time the rice is being imported from China has been found to be contaminated with a variety of insect resistant GM rice, which has not been authorised for safe human consumption anywhere in the world.
"In the UK, we feel like GM has gone away, but we are having to deal with the contamination around the world that’s causing both environmental and economic problems" said Becky Price from GeneWatch UK. "If we had allowed commercial cultivation in this country we may well have been facing more problems today."
Notes to the Editor
- USDA Report of Liberty Link Rice Incidents (APHIS) October 2007 http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/10/content/printable/RiceReport10-2007.pdf
- On 12 February 2008 the EC Commission agreed Emergency Measures regarding the unauthorised genetically modified organism 'Bt63' in rice products. The measures will apply from 15 April and require consignments of rice products from China to be accompanied by an analytical report to demonstrate that the product does not contain 'Bt63'. Member States will also be required to take appropriate measures, including random sampling and analysis, regarding products already on the market. The results of testing carried out by Member States (both positive and negative results) will need to be forwarded to the Commission every 3 months.
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