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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Contamination Matters: Why GM crops can’t be managed at a national level

Immediate release (5 Jun 2014)

Press contact: Liz O’Neill tel: 0845 217 8992 email:

Campaign group GM Freeze launched a briefing today that highlights the risk of cross-border contamination between GM and non-GM food crops.

Contamination Matters – Why GM can’t be managed at a national level is published in advance of a critical European Union vote next Thursday (12 June) that could make it much easier and quicker for GM crops to get the go-ahead for cultivation in the EU. [1] The briefing highlights the risks associated with cross-border contamination by examining three detailed examples of real contamination events that caused significant disruption to food supply, farmers’ livelihoods and the broader agricultural economy, including international trade.

GM Freeze Director Liz O’Neill comments:

The idea of individual countries being able to ban GM sounds appealing, but sadly it won’t work. Pollen and seed don’t respect national boundaries any more than they give way on a roundabout, and experience shows that once the GM genie is out there we cannot put it back in the bottle. The costs can be huge.

The contamination incidents detailed in the briefing involve experimental GM strains of American rice, Chinese rice and Canadian flax. All were supposed to be grown under tightly controlled trial conditions but ended up in our food. Other examples include GM wheat that appears to be spread by wild geese and GM bentgrass designed for golf courses that is now spreading uncontrolled along watercourses.

Contamination, and the lack of any meaningful liability regime, is just one aspect of the Environment Council vote that rings alarm bells, and O’Neill is concerned that many people just don’t understand what a “Yes” to this proposal would mean:

This is all about getting more GM crops into the ground more quickly. Collective decision making hasn’t allowed GM crops to be grown widely in the EU because the majority of EU countries don’t want them.

Now GM supporters, including our own Environment Minister Owen Paterson, are throwing away the whole concept of a common market to further their own support for a technology that raises far more questions than it answers. Their refusal to first put in place a reasonable, clear liability regime to protect the food system and the environment speaks volumes.



[1] GM Freeze, 5 June 2014. Contamination Matters – Why GM crops can’t be managed at a national level