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Amflora potato: Intermixing in Sweden, ban in Germany

(10 September 2010) During cultivation of the Amflora starch potato in Sweden, intermixture has occurred with another type of genetically modified (GM) potato that is not yet approved. Till Backhaus (of the German Democratic Socialist Party), Minister for Agriculture in the north-east German state of Mecklenburg-Lower Pomerania has responded by prohibiting the dissemination of Amflora potatoes grown in his region.

While conducting quality controls during cultivation of Amflora potatoes in northern Sweden, BASF Plant Science detected "minimal intermixtures" with a similar GM starch potato. In contrast to Amflora, the potato in question (brand name Amadea) is not yet approved. An application shortly had been submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that is responsible for approval.

According to statements by BASF, the intermixture amounted to less than 0.01 per cent, representing "47 Amadea plants among 680,000 Amflora plants." Investigation is underway to determine how such unintentional intermixture could occur. The Amadea plants first came to be noticed through their white blossoms that contrast with the violet blossoms of Amflora. According to BASF, all Amadea plants were removed so that no tubers entered starch production. After the findings in Sweden, no Amadea plants were found in subsequent controls conducted in Amflora fields in the Czech Republic and in Germany.

The EU Commission invited BASF and the responsible public authorities in the affected Member States to discussions in Brussels aimed towards illumination of the situation and the measures to be taken.

Minister Backhaus prohibited the dissemination of Amflora potatoes in his state already before the meetings in Brussels. The only site affected thereby was a field of approximately 15 hectares in Zenkow, where Amflora potatoes were grown in 2010 exclusively for use in planting next year.

Minister Backhaus has instructed BASF …"after harvest to store and maintain [the potatoes] in such a manner that securely prevents access to third parties". These instructions are valid until the company is able to disprove "without a doubt" suspicions that the Amflora harvest may not be free from admixtures of unapproved GM potatoes. The German minister also ordered the public authorities responsible for surveillance to secure samples from the harvest. However, for such minute intermixtures as those found in Sweden, analytical detection may be difficult.

Minister Backhaus admitted that his administration "controlled several times" the Amflora field in Zepkow during cultivation. "No other potatoes were noticed" thereby.


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