ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

30 December 2002


multiple items below on this topic which has made most news publications in Britain + TV/radio news


Alert after GM crop altered other plants

Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Monday December 30, 2002
The Guardian

Genetically modified crops being grown in Britain are likely to have cross-pollinated with ordinary crops and weeds, government research has shown.

GM oilseed rape so readily cross pollinates it is unlikely that GM crops could be grown in Britain without contaminating all oilseed varieties, according to the research.

The National Institute for Agricultural Botany at Cambridge says current safety margins of 50 metres between GM crops and normal crops are not acceptable. Any normal crops being grown for seed or to be labelled organic would be rendered unfit for market because of contamination, and the research evidence shows that cross-pollination over large distances is possible.

Up to 48% of the weed wild turnip growing in the GM crops had swapped genes with its cultivated relative, making it resistant to weedkiller, the researchers found. Because seed is spilt at harvest new GM plants grow in the next crops, leading to further dangers of cross-contamination.

The government has not yet published the results of the research in full, but put a summary on its website on Christmas Eve where it was spotted by Friends of the Earth.

Pete Riley, from FoE, said: "This raises serious doubts about whether we can grow GM crops in this country and still give farmers the option of growing non-GM crops and organic produce. The fact is that this level of cross-pollination between crops means it is only a matter of time before everything in the UK becomes contaminated."


Government survey confirms GM crops contaminate other plants

The Scotsman

GENES from genetically modified crops have cross-fertilised and contaminated conventional crops and weeds in the UK, new government evidence has confirmed.

The results, which come from the trials of GM technology carried out under government supervision, could compromise plans to grow the crops commercially.

The results of the study are so controversial that the officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published them on Christmas Eve - the only day of the year when newspapers do not go to press the following morning.

Last month it was revealed that a major UK government review of GM crops, to be published in the middle of next year, will not include the results of the controversial field trials, causing campaigners to question why the trials went ahead in the first place and accuse the government of bowing to corporate pressure.

And in August the biotech company Aventis admitted that rogue material had contaminated 12 trial fields in England and two in Scotland with antibiotic resistant genes that went undetected by government inspectors. Antibiotic genes are controversial because of the risk of gene transfer to bacteria in animals and humans, who could then develop immunity to common life -saving antibiotics.

Last night, anti-GM groups said the results of the new survey and the manner in which they were released represented further evidence that ministers were not acting in the interests of science, agriculture or consumers.

Until now the government has persistently claimed the results would bring an end to the debate on whether biotechnology and GM crops threatened the environment.

Trials, such as those that have taken place at Munlochy on the Black Isle and fields at the Scottish Agricultural College at Aberdeen, were designed to look at the affects of pesticide use on GM and non-GM crops, and not the possibility of gene transfer.

The investigation, conducted between 1994 and 2000 by the National Institute of Agriculture, Botany and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, shows that genes from GM oil seed rape altered to become resistant to herbicides, contaminated conventional crops. The results also show that GM crops interbred with the wild turnip weed, giving it resistance to herbicides and increasing the possibility of the unnatural evolution of superweeds.

Anthony Jackson, a spokesman for the Munlochy vigil group which has protested against the trials on the Black Isle, said: "This report comes as no surprise to us. That is why we declared from the start that these crops should not be grown in the open environment at all. We have had a series of trials across the UK which have also been dropped out of the scientific review. It is pretty insulting for communities to have this sort of cover-up and detachment that the government seem to be pushing just because the evidence that is coming out is not what they want to see."   He added: "The technology is being driven by commercial interest, not scientific, agricultural or consumer. We need real science rather than pseudo science that is pushed forward by corporations and members of governments who support them."


Interbreeding GM crops 'raises risk of superweeds'

By Andrew Clennell
The Independent , Monday 30 December 2002

Genes from genetically modified crops are interbreeding with other crops and weeds, a government report has found.

Evidence of contamination between engineered oilseed rape and non-GM plants has been discovered after a six-year research programme. The genes in the research could migrate up to 200 metres, the research found.

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth, Peter Riley, said the report highlighted the potential threat of "superweeds" in the British countryside.

A summary of the results was published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on 24 December. The department was criticised by Friends of the Earth for not posting the full report on its website.

Defra defended the decision to release the report on Christmas Eve, with a spokesman admitting it was not the "ideal time" to publish but that "there has been no attempt to mislead".

"It's 100 pages long. It's very detailed and very scientific - that's why it's not on the website," he said.

He also said the results were as expected - showing low levels of contamination.

The research found the weed wild turnip (Brassica rapa) was affected by gene flow when planted next to GM oilseed rape, prompting fears it could become resistant to herbicides.

Mr Riley said: "These results should cause the Government to think again about the long-term implications on the commercial growing of oilseed rape."

The work focused on GM oilseed rape crops at sites including official farm-scale trials.

In some samples, the GM oilseed rape contaminated normal crops 200 metres away.

The report said commercial scale releases of GM oilseed rape in the future could pollinate other crops and wild turnip.

It said: "There may be a need to review isolation requirements in keeping with current legislation on contamination thresholds in crops, in light of this research."


Genes from GM crops found to be breeding with other plants

Protesters say new research means trials should stop
The Herald

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