1.GM canola (colza – rapeseed) contamination in Switzerland via the railways
2.Illegal GM canola found growing in Swiss port area

NOTE: This new study (item 1) of GM contamination via Switzerland's railway system confirms once again (see item 2) that GM contamination is happening in a country that has had a GM moratorium in place since 2005 and where the import of GM crops in foodstuffs and animal feed is prohibited. 

The authors also note that railways represent an ideal system for herbicide resistant GM plants to establish and spread, that gene flow can occur to sexually compatible wild species growing in the area, and that "the capillary presence of railways in the agricultural landscape" provides a potential source of contamination of Switzerland's GM-free agriculture. 

The authors also conclude that action is necessary to stop further contamination, because contamination thresholds won't stop the problem from escalating: "Our results suggests that carefully adapted monitoring designs may be set in order to detect introduction events that can lead to rapid establishment and growing populations as the accepted contamination thresholds are likely to be biologically insufficient to prevent further environmental contamination." 
1.Surveying the occurrence of subspontaneous glyphosate-tolerant genetically engineered Brassica napus L. (Brassicaceae) along Swiss railways
Nicola Schoenenberger and Luigi D'Andrea    
Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:23 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-23
Published: 11 September 2012
Abstract (provisional)


Railway tracks represent a highly interlinked habitat with numerous possibilities for accidental entry of oilseed rape due to seed spill during transportation. Moreover, glyphosate is regularly employed to control the vegetation, increasing the possibility of establishment for plants resistant to it. We surveyed the presence of genetically engineered glyphosate tolerant oilseed rape (Brassica napus) with a focus on the most important Swiss railway stations. Our objective was to detect accidental establishment of transgenic plants, since Switzerland does not import nor cultivate transgenic oilseed rape.

Seventy-nine railway areas were sampled in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein, and the feral presence of oilseed rape was detected in 58 of them. A total of 2403 individuals were tested for genetic modification using commercially available immunologic test kits. In four localities, one located in Lugano and three in the area of Basel, a total of 50 plants expressing the CP4 EPSPS protein were detected. In two of the localities, survival of herbicide applications was observed. The populations were probably introduced through contaminated seed spills from freight trains, or during the transfer of goods from cargo ships to trains.


Railways represent an ideal system for herbicide resistant transgenic plants to establish and spread as a result of high selective pressure in favour of herbicide resistance with consequent increased difficulties to keep the infrastructure free of weeds. Crop-to-wild gene flow can occur as several sexually compatible species which are congeneric or in allied genera to oilseed rape were found growing sympatrically. Moreover, the capillary presence of railways in the agricultural landscape provides a putative source of contamination of GE-free agriculture. Our results suggest that carefully adapted monitoring designs may be set in order to detect introduction events that can lead to rapid establishment and growing populations as the accepted contamination thresholds are likely to be biologically insufficient to prevent further environmental contamination.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF.
The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production. 

2.Illegal GE canola found growing in Swiss port area
Akiko Frid 
Greenpeace, May 31 2012

Genetically Engineered (GE) oilseed rape, or GE canola, was recently found growing in Switzerland where nobody actually cultivates it. Switzerland has in fact had a GE moratorium in place since 2005 and the import of GE crops in foodstuffs and animal feed is prohibited. So where did the GE canola come from?

The GE canola was found growing wild in Basel’s port area. It is suspected that the canola seeds fell to the ground during the transit of barges or freight trains. Greenpeace Switzerland tested 136 canola plants and found 29 that tested positive for GE, all of which were Monsanto´s herbicide-tolerant canola, GT73 (also called RT73). This was not the first time GE contamination has happened through a port area.

GE canola in Basel

In 2005 Japanese researchers found that GE canola had escaped into the wild from major shipping ports along the Japanese coast. There is no canola cultivated in Japan, but feral (plants that grow in the wild without cultivation) GE canola is growing in many locations around the ports and roadsides from spillages of imported GE canola from Canada.

Japanese farmers and consumers have been testing and removing feral GE canola ever since. In Japan, farmers are concerned that radish, broccoli, mustard and non-GE canola may have been cross-pollinated with GE canola.

GE canola is mainly cultivated commercially in Canada and in the US, where it has contaminated non-GE canola. In fact, herbicide tolerant GE crops are generally causing havoc for farmers that face new problems with superweeds.

Some of these superweeds have become tolerant to Monsanto’s own Roundup herbicide. Therefore even more chemicals are required to combat the superweeds. Cultivation of herbicide tolerant GE crops supports intensive chemical agriculture, which damages soils, groundwater and biodiversity. This ia a problem that is now occurring in Australia.

GE canola contamination is already spreading in the European Union, even though it has not been approved for commercial cultivation in the EU. If released into the environment, the germination of canola seeds cannot be contained. A Swedish study has also shown that GE canola seeds could survive and be viable for germination even 10 years after their release into the wild. There are many studies from North America confirming that GE canola can escape and form feral populations along roadside verges. These feral populations can act as a reservoir of GE genes that can also contaminate non-GE canola seeds and fields.

The only way we can prevent any further contamination is to stop releasing GE plants into the environment. Furthermore, GE crops are not needed, nor wanted. We can breed crops with traits such as drought tolerance, and even vitamin-enhanced crops, without resorting to GE crops.

Breeding new crops is only one part of agriculture, other parts include making agriculture resistant to threats such as climate change by increasing its resilience, and this means working with nature, for example by maintaining healthy, fertile soils by employing ecological agricultural techniques.

Ecological Farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow, by protecting soil, water and climate. It also promotes biodiversity and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or GE seeds.

In fact, farmers and regions that chose GE-free canola make more money. For example, the farmers in the state of Tasmania in Australia are receiving a higher price for non-GE canola from Japanese consumers.

So who needs GE canola really?

GE Contamination Register

Akiko Frid, GE Campaigner, Greenpeace Nordic