GM releases in the news

25 May 2000

GM releases in the news

By FWi staff

NEWS that GM-contaminated maize may have been planted across thousands of hectares of farmland features prominently in the daily newspapers.

Maize seed containing genetically modified material up to levels of 1% was planted on up to 1 million hectares across Europe, it is alleged.

The European Seed Association (ESA) said between 5-15% of maize seed planted in the year 2000 contained 0.01% and 0.99% GM purity.

Environmental group Greenpeace claimed that up to 15% of this years European maize crop was sown with contaminated maize.

Meanwhile, New Scientist magazine reports another twist to the GM contamination story.

Tests in the USA by Iowa-based Genetics ID found more than half of samples of conventional maize seed contained GM material.

This follows last weeks admission that farmers in Britain and other European countries unwittingly planted GM oilseed rape after a blunder by seed company.

Considering latest developments, the Daily Mail says ESA director Garlich Von Essen believes a 1% contamination level is the only thing that can be scientifically guaranteed.

He says it had not yet been established if GM maize had entered the food chain.

The Times reports that another imported crop which could be affected is soya beans.

It says that out of 491,000 tonnes imported into Britain, 5000t may be modified. It is unknown how much of this was sown.

The Independent claims British plant breeders and seed merchants are prepared to allow 1% GM contamination.

This would back a French initiative which the ESA says has been endorsed by all the EU seed associations, it reports.

Following latest events the National Farmers Union is calling for guidance on the issue of purity, reports The Daily Telegraph.

The ramifications of the earlier news of accidental GM contamination continue to make the headlines.

The Times reports that the Marquess of Lansdowne has destroyed 250 acres of GM-contaminated oilseed rape.

In a letter to the newspaper the Marquess, who has a 540-acre arable farm near Dunkeld in Perthshire, says he spent 5000 doing this.

Now he wants compensation from the government.

It has also emerged that the rogue GM oilseed rape has been planted as far north as the Orkneys.

The crop was distributed to local farmers by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in a bid boost winter numbers of birds.

The charity says it will plough up the crop and seek redress from those responsible, reports The Times.

In another development, the Financial Times says Advanta – the company which distributed the GM-tainted seed – may compensate French farmers.

And on Wednesday (24 May) Sweden ordered farmers to either destroy or seek experimental crop licences for its contaminated oilseed rape.

Meanwhile, the British trials of GM crops, overshadowed by recent events, have lost another farmer, reports The Times

John Moore abandoned plans to grow GM oilseed rape in Warwickshire after local protests.

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