Contamination and Coexistence
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.
- Press articles
- Capital Press: Alfalfa hay exporters want no part of the argument over GM crops (17th September 2013)
- ThinkProgress: How Government Regulators Predicted, And Then Ignored, The Latest GMO Contamination Scandal (16th September 2013)
- Oregon Live: Genetically modified alfalfa confirmed in Washington test sample (13th September 2013)
- Bloomberg: Washington Farmer Claims Monsanto Gene Tainted Alfalfa (11th September 2013)
- GreenMedInfoIllegal StarLink GM Corn Resurfaces in Saudi Arabian Food Supply (16th August 2013)
- Ottawa Citizen: Pooping Canada geese may have spread GM wheat seeds (23rd July 2013)
- WKNO 91.1: In Oregon, The GMO Wheat Mystery Deepens (17th July 2013)
- Nature News: Hunt for mystery GM wheat hots up (17th July 2013)
- MENAFN: Genetically modified wheat: Visit by Japan officials raises hope of resuming Pacific Northwest exports (16th July 2013)
- Reuters: Japan eyes switch from western white wheat for 1st time in 53 yrs (28th June 2013)
- Reuters: Monsanto unapproved GMO wheat stored in Colorado through '11 (28th June 2013)
- Oregon Live: Genetically modified wheat: With investigation unresolved and harvest about to start, Oregon farmers seek answers (28th June 2013)
- The Guardian: US Department of Agriculture probes Oregon Monsanto GM wheat mystery (22nd June 2013)
- Scoop: GMO Soybean Found Illegally Growing In Northern Belize (13th June 2013)
- iAfrica.com: Monsanto ends 8-yr GM freeze (7th June 2013)
- Daily Mail: America facing wheat export crisis as Europe and Japan lead the way in rejecting genetically modified crops (31st May 2013)
- Daily Mail: Fears that GM wheat is in exports to UK after it is discovered growing in the U.S. (31st May 2013)
- The Scientist: A Win for GM Crops (10th September 2012)
- Nasdaq: Bayer To Begin Paying $750 Million Settlement With US Rice Farmers (16th December 2011)
- Press releases
- GeneWatch PR:Government plans for controls on GM crops like putting 'dracula in charge of the blood bank': GeneWatch response to consultation on coexistence of GM and non-GM crops 13th October 2006
- GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch UK welcomes move to maintain moratorium on Terminator technology 27th March 2006
- GeneWatch PR: First contamination report reveals worldwide illegal spread of genetically engineered crops 8th March 2006
- GeneWatch PR: First on-line worldwide register of GM contamination incidents launched today 1st June 2005
- GeneWatch PR: Brussels bureaucrats increase GM conflict by sacrificing organic non-GM standards: 23rd July 2003
- GM Contamination Register Report 2005 8th March 2006
- Why Terminator technology won't prevent GM contamination 14th March 2006
- Briefing 33: Can Biological Containment Work for Crops and Society? 1st December 2005
- Briefing 29: Growing GM crops: The Need for Contamination and Liability Rules 1st October 2004