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2-Plants: GE contamination in U.S. soy bean foundation seeds

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  AGRICULTURE: Seed raises control issues
        Sustainable ag group says genetically modified soybeans spilled
        into nonmodified stocks
SOURCE: Grand Forks Herald, USA, by Mikkel Pates
DATE:   Nov 12, 2002

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AGRICULTURE: Seed raises control issues
Sustainable ag group says genetically modified soybeans spilled into
nonmodified stocks

FARGO - North Dakota State University's Foundation Seedstocks Program has
been contaminated with genetically modified crops and cannot be trusted to
segregate GM and non-GM wheat seed, a group critical of genetically modified
crops said. Theresa Podoll, executive director of the Northern Plains Sustainable
Agriculture Society, sent out a news release Monday, saying NDSU's non-GM,
Natto-type soybeans planted in 2002 may have been contaminated with GM beans.
Natto beans are specialty soybeans destined for premium food grade markets in
Japan, typically unwelcoming to genetically modified products. Podoll's
group has been a strong opponent of commercialization of GM wheat, which also
would have to be marketed to some countries and buyers who don't want it. NDSU
officials acknowledge a problem occurred but say it was properly handled. 

Rogue seeds

Two lots of non-GM Natto beans were found contaminated with Monsanto's
Roundup Ready soybean genetics, Podoll said. NDSU officials say that sufficient
steps have been taken to minimize the problem and avoid repeating it. "In
soybeans, we make every effort to prevent contamination and - if it occurs - we
correct it," said M. Dale Williams, director of NDSU Foundation Seedstocks.
"Roundup Ready are two different animals,"Williams said. “Roundup Ready soybeans
are not regulated. Small amounts of it, or tolerances of amounts, are
allowed in most markets. It's not approached with the same amount of diligence as
Roundup Ready wheat. The soybean contamination occurred in the winter of 2000
when the Natto beans were planted in Chile for seed increase. 

The seeds then were harvested and shipped to North Dakota in 2001 and
planted at NDSU's Agronomy Seed Farm near Casselton, N.D. Those fields produced
some off-type plants, but GMO was not suspected, Williams said. Later, when some
of the larger, off-type seeds were "scalped" off to be discarded, some of
them tested positive for GMO. Natto beans are characteristically small.
Foundation seed from "rogued" 2001 fields were tested and no GMO was detected,
Williams said. In 2002, seeds from those fields were sold to about 10 growers who
would plant them for export or seed increase. 

When the Agronomy Seed Farm produced its own seed in 2002, it again was
screened for size, and again there were GMO positives in the large seeds. In late
October, Williams phoned the 2002 customers to inform them "there could be a
minor presence" in lots they were sold. "Although we did not anticipate that
the minor amounts . . . we'd found in our fields would ever be enough to be
detected in very sensitive tests, we wanted them to know so that the
'scalpings' of the very largest seed should not be saved because they might have the
presence of the transgenics in them." Williams said the response from the
growers was "very positive," and that they were glad to be informed. 

Careless combines 

Williams says any contamination was in the seed from Chile. NDSU suspects
the Chilean company that produced the seeds failed to clean its combines. "The
seed we got from Chile had the contamination in it. They could have been
careless in a number of steps," Williams said. He said NDSU has changed Chilean
cooperators and is beginning to test advanced breeding lines as a potential

Podoll said Williams told her there would be more on-site inspections of
cooperators. "That raises the issue of who's going to pay those costs," Podoll
said. Podoll said Foundation Seedstocks should develop its own set of
protocols on how to avoid such contamination and how to handle contamination when it
occurs. Foundation seedstocks are literally the “foundation for the entire
seed system," Podoll said. She said contamination "strikes at the very heart of
the segregation argument."

Podoll said she's troubled by the fact that the "decision to destroy these
foundation lots has not been made," despite statements made early this spring
that if foundation seedstocks were to become contaminated with transgenic
varieties, they would be destroyed. "It looks like they intend to go ahead with
putting them on the market and not recalling them, and/or destroying any
seedstocks they have in their possession at this time," Podoll said. 

Purity important 

Ted Helms, an NDSU soybean breeder who developed NDSU's Natto bean
varieties, said such drastic measures probably would not be applied to soybeans, as
they would to wheat seeds. GM wheat seed cannot be legally exported. Robert
Sinner, president of SB&B Foods Inc. of Casselton, who specializes in "identity
preserved" shipments of food grade soybeans, acknowledged contamination is a
problem. He said the North Dakota State Seed Department must take
precautionary measures when certifying and registering seed to "not only verify purity
of the variety but also whether it's free of contamination of transgenics."

NDSU, from its initial varietal work, needs to take very strict management
procedures and do regular testing to maintain purity, Sinner suggested. "All
the money that is spent to send those increases to Chile are all for naught if
it's contaminated," Sinner said. Sinner said he would be disturbed if NDSU
planned to continue to market contaminated seed as certified or registered.
"That, to me, goes against the principles of certified and registered seed.
You've lost your purity," Sinner said. 


Hartmut Meyer       from Nov 11 - Nov 17
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