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Illegal GM Flax Now in 30 Counties Including UK – No official action from FSA

Immediate release (8 Oct 2009)

Calls to Eve Mitchell on +44 (0)7962 437 128 or 01381 610 740 or to Pete Riley on 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065

GM Freeze has written again to the FSA and Defra asking for urgent clarification as to how the UK Government intends to protect farms, the public and businesses from the illegal GM contamination of Canadian flax products that has now reached some 30 countries worldwide, including the UK.

GM Freeze has asked the FSA why they have not yet issued an official Food Alert regarding this contamination. This is even more surprising given the FSA initiated an EU Rapid Alert to Member States following the detection of the GM flax in the UK.

GM Freeze have asked Defra to provide responses to questions originally raised on 14 September:

  • what actions Defra is taking to identify the origins of flax seed sown in the UK?
  • what actions Defra is taking to ensure imports of flax/linseed are tested for this unauthorised GMO?
  • what have been the results of these tests?
  • what other actions are you taking in general and on these results, including to identify and destroy any contaminated crops in the UK?

In addition we’ve asked Defra:

  • what action is being taken to ensure that seed contamination does not spread to crops and food products in the absence of monitoring of seed?
  • why there appears to be no contingency planning to deal with situations such as this or the oilseed rape contamination last year.?[1]

In the letter to Hilary Benn, GM Freeze ask if he can confirm reports that the contamination problem may be rectified by retroactively approving the GM flax for use in the EU and what the UK’s voting position on such a proposal would be if this suggestions is tabled.

Eve Mitchell from GM Freeze commented:

This appears to be an extraordinary dereliction of duty by the FSA and the Government, and not for the first time. It’s time we had a Parliamentary Committee to oversee the FSA and ensure they are doing their job to protect UK farms, businesses and the public.

UK companies need to be told that this problem is growing and to remove any potentially contaminated products from sale. The official mechanism for this is a Food Alert from the FSA, yet a month into this incident there is still no Food Alert.

Any suggestion that this flax should be speedily authorised to ‘eliminate’ the problem must be rejected as a prime example of the ‘contaminate then legislate’ approach favoured by the GM industry.

The FSA claims it ‘provides advice and information to the public and Government on food safety from farm to fork, nutrition and diet. It also protects consumers through effective food enforcement and monitoring’.

If this is ‘protection’, UK farms, businesses and the public appear to be second in line to ensuring the GM industry isn’t embarrassed.

Calls to Eve Mitchell on +44 (0)7962 437 128 or 01381 610 740 or to Pete Riley on 0845 217 8992 or 07903 341 065.

[1] Scottish Parliament written answers from 6 October said:

EU seeds legislation requires that Member States should ensure that they are notified of the particulars of any seed (to be used for multiplication purposes as opposed to grain) weighing over 2kgs which is directly imported from Canada or any other third country. No such notifications have ever been received by Scottish Ministers regarding seed from Canada. This information is not, however, routinely compiled at EU level and the Scottish Government has no information on such notifications elsewhere in Europe. (Scottish Parliament written answer S3W-27785) (emphasis ours)


EU seeds legislation does not require the monitoring of seed imports for adventitious GM presence (AGMP). (Scottish Parliament written answer S3W-27787)