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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

GM Freeze Calls for Thorough Investigation of GM Contamination Incident

Immediate release (12 Sep 2008)

Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065

GM Freeze is calling for a thorough investigation into how oilseed rape seeds planted in three locations in Scotland in seed trials became contaminated with unauthorized GM traits, as well as for improvements to seed import controls.

The incident was reported by the Scottish Government today [1] and involved contamination of new non-GM oilseed rape varieties being tested in National List trials in order to gain approval for commercial sale in the UK.

The Scottish Government has acted to deal with the contaminated plants and seeds involved in the trial. GM Freeze understands that no contaminated seeds were planted in England as part of the same trial programme.

The group say the following questions must be answered in order to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the future:

  • What was the country origin of the contaminated seeds and what type of plant breeding methods were employed?
  • Is the country of origin growing GM crops commercially?
  • What was the location of the seed production ground and what is its proximity to any GM oilseed rape fields?
  • What measures were used to prevent contamination of the seed lot during cultivation and post harvest?
  • Did the contamination arise from cross pollination or as a result of co-mixing GM and non-GM seeds before sowing or after harvest?
  • What is the nature of the GM trait(s) found and what company(ies) who produced them?
  • What level of GM contamination was present?
    How did the seeds come to be planted before the results of GM scanning were available?
  • What measure will be taken to prevent further contamination?
  • What lessons can be learned for protecting seed imports destined for commercial crop production?
  • Who will be liable for the costs of preventing contamination and the loss of the trial results?

This is not the first time oilseed rape has been contaminated with GM in the UK. Previous GM contamination incidents involving occurred in 2000 and 2002 [2].

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

We have been fortunate that this GM contamination incident only involved trial plots and not a seed lot, which would have been planted commercially. The relevant authorities need to move quickly to investigate this incident and identify where procedures could be improved to prevent it happening again. They need to play particular attention to the country of origin of this seed and review whether it is sensible to take seed from there. The implication of widespread GM contamination of oilseed rape crops are enormous both economically and, potentially, for public health. We welcome the Scottish Goverment’s swift action to deal with this problem and its policy to keep Scotland GM free. [3]


Calls to Pete Riley 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065.

[1] see

[2] Spring oilseed rape imported from Canada and planted by over 600 farmers was found to be contaminated with GM at an average of 1.2%. Farmers destroyed the crops and were eventually compensated by the importer Advanta Seeds UK. The cause of the contamination was not clear. In August 2002, Defra revealed that GM oilseed rape seed being grown in the government sponsored Farm Scale Evaluations also contained another unauthorized GM trait. The crops were routinely destroyed as part of the consent condition for the FSE. Again the cause of the contamination is unknown. No legal action taken in either case.

[3] see