GENET archive


2-Plants: Is GE maize co-existence at 20 meters possible?

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Co-existence at 20 meters claims study
SOURCE: Cedab Agrobiotecnolgie, Italy, posted by Checkbiotech, Switzerland
DATE:   27 Jan 2006

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Co-existence at 20 meters claims study

CREMONA, Italy - In Northern Italy (Padana Plain), the gene flow of
maize, in optimal conditions, falls below the critical threshold of 0.9%
at a distance of 17.5 metres from pollen sources, and to below 0.5% at a
distance of 30 metres. Amongst the measures that can be used to limit
gene flow, the use of buffer zones and the use of varieties that have
different blossoming times has proved to be particularly effective. The
use of open spaces between the different crops is less efficient and is
able to reduce gene flow only in the absence of wind or when more than
thirty metres of empty space separates the crops.

These are some of the results collected by researchers in 2005 in
Lombardy (northern Italy), within the most extensive cooperative
experiment ever conducted in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe.
Its aim was to evaluate gene flow between adjoining maize crops, and the
results were presented today at the Vegetalia Expo, an agricultural fair
held in the city of Cremona. For experimental purposes, traditional
coloured maize was used, as experimentation with genetically modified
plants in open fields is banned in Italy. The results of the experiment
will be available on alongside the Podcast of the seminar.

The experiment was conducted in Lombardy by researchers and technicians,
both from the public and private sector. They simulated the behaviour of
pollen and gene flow in maize using conventional varieties with coloured
kernels. These conventional varieties are homozygous for kernel color
(100% of pollen has the marker gene) and, therefore, the resulting
values has to be considered overestimated if compared to homozygous
varieties, as in the case of many genetically modified varieties, where
only 50% of the pollen has marker gene.

The research was conducted in order to integrate and verify, in the
context of agriculture in the Padana Plain, the information available
for coexistence in maize. In particular, 4 different types of
experimental trial were carried out to measure the gene flow in maize
and to verify the effectiveness of some measures in order to limit it,
including the adoption of open spaces within the crops, the use of
"buffer zones" which hinder the pollen fow, as well as the use of
varieties with different blossoming time.

In terms of coexistence, maize is the most relevant crop for Italian
agriculture as it covers 1.4 million hectares and occupies slightly over
10% of the total national agricultural surface. Maize represents 38% in
value of the total Italian production of cereal crops.

The results of the Italian field trials carried out on the 40 hectares
are similar to those yielded by field trials conducted in Germany by
Prof. Dr. W.E. Weber of the Istitut für Pflanzenzüchtung und
Pflanzenschutz in Halle, and in Switzerland by Dr. Michael Banner of the
Istitut für Pflanzenwissenschaften in Zurich, both of whom presented
their findings at the Vegetalia expo in Cremona.

The results of the research will be made available to the international
scientific community (a paper will be submitted soon to a scientific
journal to be peer-reviewed), the maize production industry, and to
professional agricultural associations; the experimental designs and
tecnical data will also be passed on to commissions and scientific
committees working for the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and the
Regional Authorities, as a scientific contribution obtained in loco, to
define guidelines for the development of coexistence rules among
genetically modified, conventional and organic crops. Fulfilment of the
latter by Regional Authorities is sanctioned by the law dated 28,
January 2005, n° 5 titled "Urgent measures to insure coexistence of
transgenic, conventional and organic crops".

Researchers, technicians and farmers worked side-by-side during the
entire experimentation period, sharing their respective experiences,
sampling methods and initial result evaluations. Particular attention
was paid to comparing indications obtained from the different
experimental designs.

The experimentation carried out in Lombardy was made possible thanks to
the collaboration of numerous organisations, amongst which CRA -
Istituto Sperimentale per la Cerealicoltura di Bergamo, Parco
Tecnologico Padano, Hylobates Consulting, Agricola 2000, Associazione
dei Produttori di Semi Oleosi e Cereali Lombarda (APSOCLO) - which put
at the researchers' disposal seven plots of land in the provinces of
Brescia, Mantova, Milan, Cremona and Lodi all in the maize growing area
in Italy. The research activity was promoted by CEDAB.

The aim of the Milan-based CEDAB (Centro di Documentazione sulle
Agrobiotecnologie), is to promote and disseminate scientific and
economic information relating to the use of biotechnologies in
agriculture. CEDAB's activities are financed by CropLife, a non-
governmental association based in Brussels, in turn funded by the major
international companies operating in field of life sciences.

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Safe coexistence at 20 meters distance
SOURCE: ddp, Germany, by Ralph Sommer
        translated by Barbara Duebeldeiss, Checkbiotech, Switzerland
DATE:   23 Nov 2005

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Safe coexistence at 20 meters distance

GROSS LUESEWITZ, Germany (ddp) - German molecular biologists develop
recommendations for cultivation of genetically engineered maize.

It may be a dreadful prospect for opponents of green biotechnology - two
fields of maize side by side: on one side, the untreated crop of an
ecologically minded farmer and only a few paces away, genetically
modified maize. How high is the risk of crossbreeding with the untreated
corn by springtime-pollination?

"Quite small, provided you keep a set distance in between the crops,"
says Inge Broer, Professor of Molecular Biology at Rostock University.
For two years Rostock and Halle scientists experimented with crops all
over Germany, using different safety-distances and examining the
resulting plants.

Their results: while plants grown with less than a 10 metre separation
do in fact lead to undesired crossings, these events can be kept under
the legally allowed quantitative threshold value by maintaining a
distance of 20 metres or more.

These 2004 field studies were performed under the most diverse natural
conditions, for example, exposed to all kinds of wind directions.
Results show that the natural dispersion of pollen in practice hardly
ever exceeds 20 metres. To make sure and document dispersion of pollen
by wind across different cultures, this year experts grew barley,
potatoes, peas and pasture between the two types of maize. The harvest
will be brought in shortly and be subjected to genetic analysis by an
independent laboratory. First results can be expected by the end of November.

"Should last year's results be confirmed, this would mean a confirmation
of an until now undefined security cushion for the production by both
traditional farmers as well as for those using genetically engineered
seeds," says Broer. "The open-air experiments - sponsored by several
German states, the federal government and farmers - have proved that
'natural' and 'engineered' corn crops can coexist without interference."

This discovery could become vital to many farmers in view of the
unstoppable progress of genetically modified maize. Even now farmers
take refuge in increasing numbers of a type of corn modified to make it
resistant against a pest progressing from southern Europe - the European
Corn Borer. Caterpillars of this variety eat their way through the
corn's stems, thus allowing the infestation of fungi, which are
resistant against conventional pesticides. In the past few years, maize
crops in Oderbruch and Uckerland suffered heavily from this pest.
Genetically modified corn however produces a protein poisonous to these worms.

Research scientists see the need for action regarding other plants, too.
"Even though genetically modified rape is not yet cultivated, a study
examining the dispersion of pollen is urgently needed," says Broer. "On
the other hand, the spreading of potatoes, sugar beet and peas could be
controlled quite simply. Modified types of grain are still in the
experimental state, whereas cotton, soy-beans and rice are not relevant
to German agriculture."


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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