Banned GM maize sown in Germany
2.GM corn contaminates crops in seven German states
EXTRACT: "Fields will have to be ploughed up before the maize blooms - it is still possible to halt the uncontrolled spread [of the GM variety]," Stefanie Becker, spokeswoman for Lower Saxony's Environment Ministry, told the BBC. (item 1)
1.Banned GM maize sown in Germany
BBC News, 7 June 2010
A genetically modified (GM) variety of maize banned in the EU has been sown accidentally across Germany.
The environmental group Greenpeace says NK603 has been planted on 3,000 hectares (7,410 acres) in seven states.
It is not clear how the contamination occurred, but it could cost farmers millions of euros, as crops will now have to be destroyed, media report.
The European Commission is meanwhile set to recommend relaxing the EU's tight rules on cultivating GM crops.
The contaminated seed has been sown in fields in seven states across Germany, including Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Lower Saxony.
The seed came from a firm in Buxtehude, near Hamburg.
Supporters of GM crops argue that they deliver higher yields and resistance to pests, requiring less fertiliser and pesticides.
Opponents say more scientific data is needed, arguing that their long-term genetic impact on humans and wildlife could be harmful.
They also say GM crops can enter the food chain inadvertently if they are naturally cross-pollinated with non-GM varieties.
Greenpeace says that officials knew about the contamination in early March, but that because of bureaucratic delays farmers are only now being warned.
"This is the biggest GM crop scandal in Germany to date," said a Greenpeace agriculture expert, Alexander Hissting.
In the affected fields, up to 0.1% of the crop is contaminated with NK603 - equivalent to 100 contaminated plants per hectare, Greenpeace says.
"Fields will have to be ploughed up before the maize blooms - it is still possible to halt the uncontrolled spread [of the GM variety]," Stefanie Becker, spokeswoman for Lower Saxony's Environment Ministry, told the BBC.
She said her ministry did not get details about the distribution of the GM maize until last Friday. "We have the distributors' names, and through them the farmers will be informed," she said.
Ms Becker estimated the area affected to be 2,000 hectares, saying the contamination originated from two sacks of seeds. It is not yet clear how the seeds got mixed up, she said.
So far the EU has allowed only two GM crops to be cultivated - Monsanto's MON 810 maize and a type of potato harvested for starch. But Germany, like some other EU countries, banned MON 810 last year.
EU member states are divided over GM crops. Commercial GM planting takes place in Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic. But France, Germany, Austria and Greece are among several states that have banned MON 810.
The GM maize that has spread in Germany "is not harmful to human or animal health", Ms Becker said.
The European Commission is overhauling the rules on GM crops and will present new proposals next month allowing member states more freedom to allow or ban GM varieties.
Countries would be allowed to set their own technical standards for GM farming, including buffer zones to prevent cross-pollination.
The new rules will still require approval by EU governments and the European Parliament.
2.Genetically modified corn contaminates crops in seven German states
Deutsche Welle, 7 June 2010
*A Greenpeace report says seven German states have had seed supplies contaminated by genetically modified corn. Losses for farmers could be in the millions of euros.
Despite a Europe-wide ban, genetically modified corn has contaminated crops in seven German states, according to research from the environmental organization Greenpeace.
The seeds were supplied by the firm Pioneer Hi-Bred, based in the town of Buxtehude outside Hamburg, in Lower Saxony. The state's agriculture ministry confirmed the research on Sunday.
According to Lower Saxony's environment ministry, the contaminated seeds, making up about 0.1 percent of the total seed supply, were sown over at least 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.
"This is, to date, the largest scandal concerning genetically modified seeds in Germany," said Alexander Hissting, an agriculture expert with Greenpeace.
Lower Saxony missed deadline
According to Greenpeace, the Agriculture Ministry discovered the contamination at the beginning of March, but did not pass on the information to the Environment Ministry until the end of April. The Environment Ministry is responsible for informing farmers of any potential contamination.
The states had agreed to make public all data related to any genetically modified seeds by the end of March to prevent such an outcome, a deadline which Lower Saxony failed to meet.
Gert Hahne, a spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry, said the delay was only two or three weeks and was not done on purpose. "The suppliers, not us, are responsible for the seed control," he said.
An additional month went by before the supplier agreed to give the state access to its customer information. It wasn't until last week, following a court ruling, that the firm released the list of dealers that had received the contaminated seeds.
Greenpeace says the corn already growing in the fields must now be destroyed, which could lead to millions of euros in losses for farmers. According to the organization's research, blood tests in animals have shown genetically modified corn to have a significant effect to the liver and kidneys.
"Putting the consumer at risk is not up for discussion," said Hissting.
Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson