London (June 6th, 2005) -- Anti-GM campaigning groups have launched what they describe as “an online register of genetically modified (GM) contamination incidents“.

Its significance does, of course, all depend on what one means by “contamination“. With incalculable numbers of pollen grains being carried by the wind, on the backs of insects, on the boots of farmers and others, and on the tyres and bodies of their machines, it would be surprising if there were not some movement. Needless to say, all types of pollen move in exactly the same way but campaigning against the non-GM varieties offers the pressure groups no political or economic benefit.

“Since their introduction in 1996,” says the announcement, “GM crops have contaminated our food, animal feed and seeds across the globe. 62 incidents of illegal or unlabelled GM contamination have been documented in 27 countries on five continents, and those are only the recorded incidents.”

That’s not bad for a technology which, a couple of weeks ago, passed its billionth acre of planting and, in 2004, was used by some eight million farmers worldwide on 81 mn. hectares (see A billion acres and 459 million Europeans in the CropGen highlights archive). Furthermore, since it all started in 1996, there has not been one single case of a health problem from GM crops or foods, nor, as far as CropGen can determine, has a single organic farmer lost accreditation because of GM pollen “contamination”.

The database reveals only 29 results for Europe as a whole and eight "contamination" events in the UK. While some of them (such as Advanta oilseed rape episode in 2000) were clearly undesirable, none posit a scenario that makes co-existence, traceability and labelling unworkable. That only eight cases were discovered over the course of a decade interestingly does not receive a mention on the press release.

As expected, the announcement of the register was fully reported by sympathetic parts of the media.

Sources:

1. First on-line worldwide register of GM contamination incidents launched today. Greenpeace (1 June, 2005) (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/GM_register)

2. Paul Brown (June 1st, 2005). Call for tighter GM controls: Pressure groups release first international register of contamination mishaps as governments meet to discuss problem. The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1496266,00.html)


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  GM “contamination” incidents