Contamination and Coexistence

Contamination and Coexistence section

It is necessary for GM and non-GM seeds and foods to remain separate from one another. Reasons include;

  • So the public can continue to have a choice to eat or avoid GM foods.
  • Farmers can also continue to choose to grow or avoid GM crops on their land.
  • There remain some uncertainties around the longer term health and environmental risks of growing and eating GMOs the EU Regulations on Food and Feed require traceability, labelling and post market monitoring of all GMOs. If GMOs and conventional seeds and foods become mixed this will not be possible.
  • Where food crops have been genetically modified to produce pharmaceuticals or industrial products, it is very important that they do not contaminate the food chain. This almost happened in the USA in 2002.
  • The international Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety gives countries the right to prior informed consent before a live GMO is imported into their country. This allows them to make their own decisions about the environmental, health and social impacts of a GMO within that country. Keeping GM and non-GM crops separate makes this possible.

There are a number of ways in which a GM crop may cause contamination of other non-GM crops of the same species or of wild related species, including the following:

  • Cross-pollination of neighbouring crops.
  • Seed spilt at harvest that germinates and contaminates later crops grown in the field. 
  • Seed split around fields and on verges during transport after harvest.
  • Mixing of GM and non-GM crops in storage or during distribution.

GeneWatch is campaigning for a system which:

  • allows non-GM and organic farmers to avoid GM contamination. This requires an approach which limits GM contamination to the lowest detectable levels;
  • allows regions to declare them selves 'GM-free'
  • compensates non-GM and organic farmers if their crops become contaminated with GM leading to economic losses; and
  • ensures the biotechnology industry, not the government, funds the compensation scheme.

These pages give details of how coexistence and contamination is being managed in the UK and Europe.

GeneWatch also manages the online GM contamination Register which records all incidents of contamination arising from the intentional or accidental release of genetically modified organisms.


↑ Top