Briefing                                                       Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack                          ...
Briefing                                                       Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack                          ...
Briefing                                                      Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack                           ...
Briefing                                                       Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack                          ...
Briefing                                                                     Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack            ...
Briefing                                                                  Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack               ...
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GE Contamination: The Ticking Time-Bomb


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GE Contamination: The Ticking Time-Bomb

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GE Contamination: The Ticking Time-Bomb

  1. 1. Briefing Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack October 2004 Clearfield), were first identified in Canada GE CONTAMINATION, in1998, only 3 years after two types of GE THE TICKING herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready and Liberty Link) oilseed rape were first grown2,3. TIME-BOMB This resistance to more than one herbicide is known as ‘gene stacking’ and arises throughReleasing GE (genetically engineered, also pollination of one herbicide tolerant variety bycalled GM, genetically modified) organisms another. An Agriculture Canada project foundinto the environment poses special threats to evidence of stacking at all 11 sites it sampledthe environment and the food chain. GE in 1999 with gene flow taking place atcrops are living and have the ability to distances of up to 800 metres4. To controlreproduce and multiply. Through cross- these herbicide tolerant weeds, both 2,4Dpollination, the foreign genes they contain and paraquat (grammoxone) are beingcan be transferred to other crops and wild recommended by government agencies tospecies. Genetic contamination can, control herbicide tolerant oilseed rapetherefore, magnify over time. GE seeds can volunteers in Canada5. 2,4-D is consideredalso be spilt, mixed with non-GE seed and "highly toxic" due to its hazard to eyes6 andgrown illegally, compounding the problems. some forms are also highly toxic to fish.7GE crops have been grown commercially Organic farmers do not use GE productssince 1996, largely in North America. Since because they do not consider geneticthat time, there have been a number of engineering fits with natural productionepisodes of contamination of non-GE crops. systems. Because canola pollen can travelFarmers have already suffered economic many kilometres (insect pollination has beenloss, consumers’ health has been threatened recorded at over 20 kms8), organic farmers inand the integrity of non-GE farming put at Canada have been forced to stop growingstake. Contamination has even arisen from canola. Some are taking legal action againstsmall-scale experimental growing and in one the biotech companies involved to get GEcase, Pioneer were fined $72,000 for not crops removed from the market and forinforming the authorities promptly of GE compensation.9contamination from a GE field trial in Hawaii1,underlining the difficulties of containing GE USAcontamination. This briefing reviews these Starlink – how GE animal feed enteredincidents of contamination and their impacts.Whilst the growing of GE crops is relatively the human food chain In 2000, a variety of GE maize known aslimited, there is an urgent need to prevent StarLink was discovered in taco shells beingfurther contamination occurring. sold for human consumption even though it was not approved for this use and shouldCanada only have been used for animal feed10,11. TheCanola contamination – driving out StarLink maize, produced by Aventis (noworganic farmers, pushing up pesticide Bayer), is genetically engineered to contain ause gene from the bacterium BacillusGE canola, or oilseed rape as it is also thuringiensis coding for an insecticidal Btknown, has been grown commercially in toxin known as Cry9C. This particular type ofCanada since 1996. Cross-pollination Bt toxin is not found in other GE insectbetween GE canola crops has led to resistant crops and there are concerns that itherbicide tolerant ‘super-weeds’ emerging. could be a human allergen because (unlikeThese volunteer oilseed rape weeds (where the Cry1A and Cry3A Bt toxins used in otherseed shed from a crop grown in a field in the GE crops) it is heat stable and does notprevious season, germinates and is a weed break down in gastric acid in the humanin the following crop), that are tolerant to digestive system– characteristics shared bythree herbicides (Liberty, Roundup and many allergens12. Because Cry9C is not
  2. 2. Briefing Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack October 2004found in Bt preparations used directly as an Hawaii – GE papaya spreadsinsecticide, there is no experience with its unmonitoreduse and safety. GE papaya, engineered to be resistant to a viral disease, has been grown widely inThe contamination appeared to have been Hawaii since 1998.16 In 2004, it has beencaused by a lack of post-harvest segregation discovered that GE papaya trees havebetween StarLink and other maize varieties contaminated both organic and conventionaland cross contamination of other non-GE non-GE papaya on a wide scale17. Localmaize varieties because farmers were not farmers fear that their markets will now beaware or, or did not observe, separation lost18 as they may be in Thailand as a resultdistances. As a result of the discovery, Kraft, of contamination (see below). Fifty percent ofSafeway and Western Family rapidly recalled Big Island papaya seed samples showed GEtheir StarLink contaminated taco shells, an contamination including those taken fromaction which is estimated to have cost them organic farms and people’s gardens.millions of dollars. Aventis was forced toremove StarLink from sale and a formal recall Researchers send GE tomato seedsorder was issued by the US Department of around the world ‘by mistake’Agriculture for all 350,000 acres of StarLink Scientists from the University of Californiacorn planted across the US in 2000. Although have admitted that they mistakenly sent GEthe FDA has purchased over $13million of tomato seeds to researchers around theStarlink seed since then, the Cry9C gene world for seven years without realising.19sequences were still being detected in seed Twelve U.S. institutions, 14 foreign researchin 2003 possibly because contaminated seed facilities and two demonstration gardenshas been used in hybrid seed production13. received mislabelled GE tomato seeds.Prodigene – how you could find drugs Latin Americain your cornflakes Mexican maize – contaminating nativeMany companies and scientists are varietiespromoting the use of GE crops as drug A paper published in Nature in 2001 reportedfactories. However, contamination of a food GE contamination in native landraces ofcrop with a drug producing GE variety is one maize even though no GE maize should haveobvious problem that has already arisen, been grown there commercially20. It seemseven though this is still at the experimental that farmers may have kept and sown maizestage. In a contamination incident which did imported for food. The findings of the studynot involve cross-pollination, on November came under considerable attack12th 2002 in the USA, the Department of (orchestrated, it seems, by the biotechnologyAgriculture (USDA) announced that it had industry) but the finding of contamination hasquarantined over $2.7 million worth of since been confirmed. Sampling in 2003 ofsoybeans (500,000 bushels) destined for maize from the nine regions of Mexico,human consumption at a Nebraska grain revealed contamination of native varietieselevator after finding stalks of ProdiGenes was widespread and occurred in 24% of allGE maize mixed with the soybeans14. They communities sampled.21 What is especiallylater ordered their destruction. The field disturbing is that maize originated inwhere the soybeans were grown had been Mesoamerica, so it is a centre of diversity,used previously by ProdiGene to grow GE and GE maize was not authorised to bemaize which contained genes to produce an grown there.experimental vaccine against a pig disease,transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV). Brazil – illegal growing opens theThe US Food and Drug Administration hasfined Prodigene £2 million15. market for later Until recently, GE crops were not allowed in Brazil, but for years Monsanto’s GE soya was
  3. 3. Briefing Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack October 2004smuggled into the country and grown illegally Japan – GE canola on the loosecreating severe problems for farmers and In 2004, it was revealed that GE canola wasexporters wanting to supply the growing found growing wild in many locations close toexport market of non-GE soybean products. the ports where it was imported into JapanThe illegal growing also forced the and the seed spilt during movement. TheGovernment to allow the planting of farm- contamination appears to be spreading andsaved GE soya for one year under certain establishing.27restrictions.22 Monsanto – the developer ofthe GE soya – did not assume any liability or Illegal GE cotton paves the way forresponsibility for its own product, but commercial introductionbenefited from the illegal cultivation through Mirroring the experiences in Brazil, illegalincreased sales of its pesticide, Roundup, growing of GE cotton preceded its officialwhich was used on the illegal GE soya fields, approval in India. In 2001, some 10,000and improved prospects for official approval. hectares of GE cotton were grown illegally in India from GE cotton seed sold by theEurope Navbharat seed company.28 It is thought theExperimental GE trials contaminated seed was produced by crossing US varietiesTwo sites in the UK used by agrochemical of GE cotton. In 2002, some GE cottoncompany Aventis (now Bayer) to test GE varieties were given official approval forcrops were found to include a second, planting in some states of India. Illegalunauthorised GE sugar beet line resistant to growing of unapproved varieties and also intwo commonly-used herbicides. 23 It is other states of India continues29thought the contaminated seed was the resultof cross-pollination in the fields of the Contaminated seed suppliesGerman breeder KWS who supplied the GE Across the world, there has been a worryingseeds. Instead of producing a beet resistant incidence of low level GE contamination ofto the weed-killer Liberty, it produced a line non-GE seed supplies. Contamination at thisresistant to both Liberty and Roundup, stage, because of cross-pollination duringanother widely-used herbicide. Further tests seed production or mixing at seed producers,showed that seeds sown on dozens of test is damaging because seed forms the verysites in Germany, France and the base of the food production chain and leavesNetherlands were also similarly non-GE impossible to achieve.contaminated.24 • In Canada, Monsanto had to replace its canola variety ‘Quest‘ in spring 2001.Asia Tests had shown that the herbicideThailand – experimental GE papaya resistant variety Quest GT 73 wascontaminates commercial farms contaminated with the alternative geneticConfirming Greenpeace’s earlier revelations, event GT 200 which is not approved inthe Thai government has reported that at any of Canada’s major export markets,least nine farms have been discovered to be including the U.S. and Japan.30 Thegrowing GE contaminated papaya trees.25 Quest canola variety accounted for aboutThe Thai government is taking action to 10 to 12 per cent of the canola growingdestroy the contaminated trees which can area in Canada in 2000.31only have arisen from GE papaya trees being • In August 2002, Pacific Seeds of Australiagrown experimentally at the Government (an Advanta company) reported that itstation breeding the trees, because GE had found GE contamination in maizepapaya is not grown commercially in seed imported into, and grown, in NewThailand. Exports of papaya to Europe have Zealand for seed production.32 Thebeen hit because of fears that contamination contamination was detected at harvestingcould have spread.26 of the maize and was destroyed.
  4. 4. Briefing Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack October 2004• Pioneer Hi-Bred, worried about For farmers trying to farm sustainably without contamination of conventional maize the use of GE crops, contamination poses a seed, has moved most of its European threat to their environmentally beneficial maize seed production from North forms of agriculture and their ability to supply America to Romania, Hungary and a non-GE market. The prospect of food Austria33. supplies being contaminated by GE crops• In 2000, Advanta Seeds imported oilseed used for drug production raises obvious rape seed into the UK which was found to questions of public safety. And the economic be contaminated with around 1% of GE,34 costs of mistakes can be large as the Starlink and this was sown on approximately episode has shown: 4,700 hectares and the crops had to be • Aventis paid at least $100 million to buy destroyed and farmers compensated.35 back the 2000 crop.41 The seed was found to have been • The United States Department of contaminated by GE rape grown over 4 Agriculture spent $20 million to buy seeds kilometres away36. from small companies whose seed stock• In 2002, Aventis (now Bayer), revealed was contaminated.42 that oilseed rape seed used at 12 sites in • Kraft lost an estimated $10 million in lost the UK’s farm scale trials with GE crops, sales from its taco shells alone.43 Taco was contaminated with an unapproved Bell franchises were awarded $60 million GE variety. 37 by all the taco shell manufacturers: Kraft,• In the USA, the Union of Concerned Azteca Foods and Mission Foods.44 Scientists reported widespread GE • Aventis, Garst and four food companies contamination at levels of up to 1% in (Kraft, Kellogg, Azteca Foods and Mission non-GE maize, oilseed rape and soybean Foods) settled a class action consumer seed.38 lawsuit for $9 million to customers who said they suffered allergic reactions.45• In July 2001, the French Government’s • Aventis and Garst settled a class action Food Inspection Agency (AFSSA - lawsuit by farmers seeking compensation Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire for lost markets. The lawsuit sought des Aliments) reported that GE damages as well as a requirement for contamination of corn, soya and canola Aventis to decontaminate all soil, farming seed had occurred. Once source of this equipment, etc. to prevent further seed contamination was GE field trials.39 contamination. The firms will pay $110 million; farmers are likely to receive only US$1 per acre.46Counting the costs ofcontamination In addition, GE contamination threatens people’s wish to have choice about whetherGE contamination matters for a whole range to eat or use GE food and crops.of reasons - environmental, health and Greenpeace believes that no more GE cropseconomic. Even apparently low levels of or other organisms should be released intocontamination are significant on a the environment if serious and irreversiblecommercial scale. In an average 10 hectare GE contamination is to be avoided. As theseoilseed rape field, at a 0.3% seed examples have shown, neither companies,contamination level, 30,000 plants in the field scientists nor regulators can be trusted tocould be GE. English Nature believe that for establish and follow rules to prevent geneticGE herbicide-tolerant crops, this would pose contamination and the very nature of GEan environmental problem because additional organisms will mean that no system can beweed control measures would be needed foolproof.with consequent harm to farmland wildlife.40
  5. 5. Briefing Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack October 2004References GMO Contamination and Threats to Local Agriculture from1 the University of Hawaii’s GMO Papaya. Emily Gersema. April 23, 2003. Pioneer pays fine in 18 New gene flow problems concern crop producers Thebiotech corn mix-up; USDA begins new Investigation. The Associated Press, September 23, 2004.Associated Press; Justin Gillis. April 24, 2003. Firm Fined Spread Of Altered Corn Genes; Government Wasnt Told 01548Soon Enough. The Washington Post: E04; Elizabeth Weise. 19 UC Davis mistakenly ships biotech tomatoes to scientists.April 24, 2003. Biotech traces found in regular corn. USA Associated Press, December 18th 2003Today: 11. Downey, R.K. (1999) Gene flow and rape – the Canadian bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/12/18/financial1708Eexperience. 1999 BCPC Symposium Proceedings No. 72: ST0140.DTL&type=scienceGene flow and agriculture: relevance for transgenic crops. 20 Quist, D, & Chapela, I.H. (2001) Transgenic DNABritish Crop Protection Council: Farnham introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca,3 Hall, L., Topinka, K., Huffman, J., Davis, L. & Good, A. Mexico. Nature 414: 541-543; CEC (Commission for(2000) Pollen flow between herbicide-resistant Brassica Environmental Cooperation of the North American Freenapus is the cause of multiple-resistant B.napus volunteers. Trade Agreement) 2004. Maize and biodiversity: the effectsWeed Science 48: 688-694. of transgenic maize in Mexico.4 Beckie, H.J., Hall, L.M. & Warwick, S.I. (2001) Impact of Inherbicide-resistant crops as weeds in Canada. Proceedings press.Brighton Crop Protection Council – Weeds pp 135-142. 21 Boletín de prensa colectivo de comunidades indígenas y5 Outcrossing Between Canola Varieties - A Volunteer campesinas de Oaxaca, Puebla, Chihuahua, Veracruz,Canola Control Issue. CECCAM, CENAMI, Grupo ETC, CASIFOP, UNOSJO, AJAGI6 2,4-D Pesticide Fact Sheet. Prepared for the U.S. México, 9 Octubre 2003 Contaminación transgénica delDepartment of Agriculture, Forest Service by Information maíz en México: mucho más grave.Ventures, Inc. 22 Vice President of the Republic of Brazil (2003) Executive7 EXTOXNET (1996) Extension Toxicology Network, Order No. 4,846 & Provisional Measure 131. UnofficalPesticide Information Profiles 2,4, D translation provided by: USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (2003) Brazil approves biotech soybeans. GAIN Report8 Ramsay, G., Thompson, C. & Squire, G. (2003) #BR3613Quantifying landscape-scale gene flow in oilseed rape. 23 DETR News Release 2000/0638: 10 October 2000. GMDEFRA Final Report RG0216 crops - Aventis sugar beet _06389 Organic Agriculture Protection Fund, press release, 24 Financial Times (October 9, 2000) Modified beet seedDecember 20, 2002. Organic farmers apply for class dropped after trial mistake.certification in lawsuit against GMO giants. Losses due to 25 Government Admission: GM papaya confirmed in NE. Theintroduction of GM canola estimated to be in excess of $14 Nation, September 14, 2004; GM papayas found on 8 moremillion farms. The Nation (Thailand), September 21, 2004. Available20dec02.pdf on: Biotech Critics Cite Unapproved Corn in Taco Shells. 26 Europeans shun Thai papaya. The Nation (Thailand),Washington Post, September 18th 2000 September 2, 2004.11 National Research Council (2000) Genetically Modified 004-4.htmPest-Protected Plants. Science and Regulation. National 27 Bio Journal - August 2004, Trend: Serious GM canolaAcademy Press: Washington DC. pollution in Kashima port, Ibaraki Prefecture,13 Mellon, M & Rissler, J (2004) Gone to Seed, transgenic in the traditional seed supply, Union of htmlConcerned Scientists: Washington DC. 28 Jayaraman, K.S. (2001) Illicit GM cotton sparks corporate fury. Nature 413: 555./page.cfm?pageID=1315 29 Bhattacharya S. (2003) Modified crops ‘have big benefits14 See USDA press release for Third World’, New Scientists 15. Feb 2003 Jayaraman,K.S. (2002) Poor crop management plaques Bt15 Alarm as GM pig vaccine taints US crops. The Guardian, cotton experiment in India, NatureBiotechnology, Vol 20,24th December 2002. 1069.16 Gonsalves, D. et al (2004). Transgenic virus resistant 30 Monsanto (April 25, 2001) Quest Canola Seedpapaya: From Hope to Reality for Controlling of Papaya Replacement Offered. Press releaseringspot virus in Hawaii. Online. APSnet feature July 2004, 31 Reuters (April 25, 2001) Monsanto replacing GMO canolaAmerican Phytopathological Society. seed in Canada 3217 Hawaii GEAN and GMO-Free Kauai, press release Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand.September 9, 2004: New Research Reveals Widespread Testing Imported Seeds For the Presence of GM Seeds.
  6. 6. Briefing Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack October 2004Investigation into GM maize grown in Pukekohe andGisborne, August-September 2002 Nuttall, N. 2000. Firms move to avoid risk ofcontamination. The Times (UK). May 29. House of Commons Agriculture Committee inquiry intogenetically modified organisms and seed segregation:memorandum by the MAFF and the DETR. 10th July 2000.35 Rogue GM seeds taint UK crop. The Guardian (UK)18thMay 2000.36 Written submission from Advanta Seeds UK to the UKHouse of Commons Agriculture Select Committee, 10th July2000.37 BBC News 16 August, 2002, Urgent tests on GM cropseeds. Union of Concerned Scientists (2004) Gone to seed.Transgenic contaminants in the traditional seed supply. UCS:Cambridge, MA. AFSSA - Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire desAliments. July 23, 2001. de l’Agence française de sécuritésanitaire des aliments relatif à lévaluation, en termes desanté publique, de la signification d’un signal positif à 0,2%par une sonde 35S et du risque éventuel lié à la présence desemences de maïs OGM non identifiés, au regard notammentdes taux de présence observés et de la fréquence des cas.40 See BBC News online. 13 October, 2002. GM seed spreadwarning;; andsubmissions by English Nature dated April 2001 (MAFFconsultation on adventitious presence of GM seeds in seed ofconventional varieties) and August 2002 (DEFRAconsultation on Commission proposals on thresholds for theadventitious presence of approved GMOs in seeds).41 Reuters Nov. 16th , 2000. US exports hurt by StarLink bio-corn chaos. Schuff, S. 2001. Major seed companies say they haveStarLink isolated. 12 March. Feedstuffs.43 Madigan, K. 2003. Risky business. Los Angeles, CA: StatePublic Interest Research Groups, As You Sow Foundation.,+K.+2003.+Risky+business.+Los+Angeles,+CA:+State+Public+Interest+Research+Groups,+As+You+Sow+Foundation&hl=en&lr=lang_en44 International Franchise Association. Taco Bell FranchiseesReceive Financial Assistance From Taco Shell Suppliers. 8June.2001 U.S. Judge Approves $9 Mln StarLink Settlement – 8thMarch 2002 Reuters Elias, P.. Biotech firms pay $110 million to settle StarLinklawsuit, 7th 2003 February, Associated Press.