Accidental GM crop planting row spreads

Alarm in Germany, France, Sweden, UK, after imported oilseed rape seed found contaminated

Political outrage over the accidental cultivation of oilseed rape contaminated at low levels with genetically modified (GM) material has spread to France, Germany and Sweden, while continuing to transfix the UK (ENDS Daily 18 May). Calls have mounted for affected crops to be pulled up, with one government indicating that it might require this.

In France, the agriculture ministry said that the low levels of contamination did not require government action. But environment minister Dominique Voynet called for all the estimated 600 hectares sown with the affected varieties to be destroyed and farmers compensated. She said the revelations showed that France had been right last year to oppose all further commercialisation of GM crops pending strengthening of the EU's "deliberate release" directive on use of GM organisms in the environment (ENDS Daily 24 June 1999).

The Swedish government moved more deliberately to active intervention, with the agriculture ministry saying it was "likely" that farmers who had used the affected seed would be ordered to destroy their crops.

In Germany, the agriculture ministry launched and then immediately lifted an "alert" over the 300 hectares of the oilseed rape sown this year, and said it would not order their destruction. But the governing Green party called the news a "huge scandal" and demanded destruction of the crops, compensation of affected farmers and punishment of Advanta, the seed company at the centre of the row.

With some 4,700 hectares sown with GM contaminated rapeseed this year, the UK has continued to see the fiercest political debate over the issue. An MP of the governing Labour party yesterday attacked what he called the "GM gigolos" responsible, while environmental groups demanded "search and destroy operations" to eliminate affected crops. The government last night indicated that it might prosecute Advanta, while ruling out destruction of crops.

Follow Up:
French agriculture ministry, tel: +33 1 49 55 49 55, and press release; German agriculture ministry, tel: +49 228 5290; Swedish agriculture ministry, tel: +46 8 405 1000; UK agriculture ministry, tel: +44 20 72 38 30 00, and press release. UK food standards agency press release.

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