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"Illegal transgenic maize" sown


(07 June 2010) In Lower Saxony and other federal German states, it is alleged that maize seeds have been planted that are contaminated with genetically modified (GM) maize. Greenpeace refers to a "scandal" and has accused responsible public authorities in Lower Saxony of failing to apply measures in time to prevent sowing.

According to statements by Greenpeace, the matter "represents the greatest transgenic seed scandal in Germany".

The Ministry for Agriculture already detected the impurity at the beginning of March during checks. Nonetheless, the seed entered circulation and was sown.

The GMO (‘genetically modified organism’) content measured by public authorities is cited as representing up to 0.1 per cent and therefore is at the technical limit of detection. The subject is the GM maize NK603, which has been cultivated in the USA and other countries for several years. In the EU, food and feed produced from NK603 maize has been approved since 2004. An application for cultivation approval of NK603 maize in the EU was submitted in 2005. During the scientific safety assessment conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), no concerns were identified that could have hindered approval. The political decision of EU Member States on cultivation approval for NK603 maize is pending.

Citations of the field area upon which maize has been sown with a contingent of NK603 are contradictory and range from 300 to 3000 hectares. In Germany, maize is cultivated on a field area of more than 2 million hectares.

Furthermore, the possibility remains that the maize seed classified as GMO-contaminated by the seed control authority in Lower Saxony actually has no GM contingent at all. This is suggested by the seed manufacturer Pioneer Hi-Bred in Buxtehude after the investigation of returned samples. The manufacturers also doubt official test results since seed batches related to those in question were classified by independent laboratories as free from GM contamination, and also infer that irregularities may have occurred during sampling.

In contrast to the conditions applied to food and feed, there are no threshold values in the EU for contingents of GMO in seed. In Germany, the responsible public authorities in federal states classify as unfit for circulation all seed batches in which GM plant material has been found – regardless of the quantity of GMO. The NK603-contaminated maize that already has been sown must also be destroyed.

The League of Plant Breeders has demanded for years that GMO "practical" GMO threshold values for seeds be established at a European level.

 

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