GENET archive


2-Plants: EC report considers co-existence of GM and non-GM crops and seeds

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  New report considers co-existence of GM and non-GM crops and
SOURCE: Joint Research Centre, Spain, Press Release IP/06/230
DATE:   24 Feb 2006

------------------ archive: ------------------

New report considers co-existence of GM and non- GM crops and seeds

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre is publishing case
studies to identify how farmers can reduce the "adventitious" -
unintended and unavoidable - presence of GM material in non-GM harvests.
The objective of the report is to provide a science-based reference to
support any future design and implementation of coexistence measures
within the EU. The case studies covered crop and seed production of
maize, sugar-beet and cotton. The report also examined the feasibility
of producing conventional seeds in Europe under different thresholds for
the presence of GM seeds. The study examines the issue at a regional
scale through simulations using data on European agricultural
landscapes, weather conditions and agricultural practices, rather than
just the field-to-field analyses that have been done so far. It
concludes that crop production at the 0.9 % threshold set by the EU is
feasible, with few or no changes in agricultural practices, if
adventitious GM presence in seeds does not exceed 0.5 %. The production
of seed up to 0.5% GM seed would be possible with little or no change in
current seed production practices.

The research carried out by a consortium(1) led by the Commission's in-
house scientific service, DG Joint Research Centre, examined the issue
of adventitious presence of GM material in non-GM crops. The term
adventitious refers to an unintended and unavoidable presence under
current farming practices. The EU legal framework for traceability and
labelling of GMOs and GMO-derived products defines a threshold of 0.9 %
for the adventitious presence of GM material in non-GM food and feed and
provides a baseline for coexistence measures in agriculture. Based on
simulations and expert opinions, the report finds that coexistence in
crop production at the 0.9% threshold is feasible with few or no changes
in agricultural practices. For maize, additional measures are needed for
some fields particularly affected by crosspollination due to their
shape, size and relative position with respect to winds and neighbouring
GM fields. The report looks in detail into the effectiveness and
feasibility of such measures, for example the introduction of isolation
distances between GM and non-GM fields; sowing a non-GM maize buffer
strip around GM fields; and using GM varieties with different flowering
dates compared to non-GM varieties.

The report concludes that conventional (non-GM) seed production in
Europe with adventitious GM presence not exceeding 0.5%(2) is feasible
with few (maize) or no changes (sugar-beet and cotton) of current seed
production practices. For maize seed production, such changes would
build on existing practices (namely the implementation of larger
isolation distances than those currently used to separate maize seed and
maize crop production fields). In addition, lowering the seed threshold
to 0.3 % would require additional measures (for example arranging GM and
non-GM seed plots in the farm in a way that takes into account dominant
winds). Finally, guaranteeing that maize seeds will contain no more than
0.1 % adventitious GM presence is not possible if co-existence measures
are limited to action on individual farms or coordination between
neighbouring farms.

While previous studies looking at the coexistence of GM and non-GM
harvests were based on field-to-field analysis of cross-pollination,
this new report moves the study of coexistence to a regional level. This
has been made possible by running novel models, designed to address the
spread of genes from GM crops to non-GM crops, with digitalised versions
of actual European agricultural landscapes, regional meteorological
conditions and agricultural practices. This has allowed the estimation
of levels of adventitious GM presence in non-GM harvest resulting from
crosspollination from multiple fields and other sources, and over
extended time periods.

In July 2003, the Commission published guidelines to help Member States
develop strategies to ensure the effective co-existence of GM crops with
conventional and organic crops. A number of Member States have since
notified legislation on coexistence. The Commission will shortly publish
a report on the measures taken across the EU, which will be fed into a
conference to discuss the issue, co-hosted with the Austrian presidency,
to be held in Vienna on 5-6 April. Following the conference, the
Commission will decide if any further action needs to be taken at EU level.

The full version of today's report is available at the following
[4,2 Mb]

1 Consortium formed by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre
(JRC)-Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS); Institute
National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA, France); University of
Applied Sciences of Weihenstephan (Germany); Desarrollo Agrario y
Pesquero (DAP; Spain)

2 Thresholds for the adventitious presence of GM seeds in conventional
seed lots may be defined in accordance with Directive 2001/18/EC as well
as with the crop specific Directives on the marketing of seeds. However,
such thresholds have not yet been set and are still under discussion.
This implies that currently all seed lots containing detectable traces
of GM seeds have to be labelled as GM.

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

TITLE:  EU Debates How Much GMO is Okay to End Seed Row
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   27 Feb 2006

------------------ archive: ------------------

EU Debates How Much GMO is Okay to End Seed Row

BRUSSELS - European Commission experts have analysed how much biotech
material can be feasibly tolerated in seed batches, hoping to end an
internal row over the EU's last major GMO law that has dragged on for
three years.

Brussels wants to update legislation on seeds so that it can ease the
way to approving new genetically modified (GMO) crops for planting. But
this has proved so controversial that even the Commission, usually
fairly united on GMO policy, cannot agree.
Now, experts at the Commission's Joint research Centre (JRC) have issued
a report on how much GMO content can be reasonably allowed in crops like
maize and rapeseed before the seeds have to be labelled as biotech.

Batches of conventional seed containing genetically modified material
below those thresholds would not have to be labelled.

While a threshold of 0.5 percent would present few, if any, problems for
maize, cotton and sugar beet, to lower it to 0.3 percent would require
extra measures like arranging seed plots on farms to take dominant wind
patterns into account, it said.

"The production of seed up to 0.5 percent GM content would be possible
with little or no change in current seed production practice," the
Commission said in a statement on Friday.

With a 0.5 percent GMO threshold in seeds, it would still be possible to
grow crops that did not exceed the EU's 0.9 percent threshold for food
and animal feed. Any GMO content above this level requires that food and
feed must be labelled as biotech.


A new law on seeds would replace current legislation dating from 1998,
and is widely seen as the piece that will complete the European Union's
jigsaw of GMO laws.

In 2004, the EU executive broke up in deadlock over the last draft
version of a seeds law that called for 0.3 percent GMO thresholds for
maize and rapeseed. The draft before that listed six crops with proposed
thresholds between 0.3 and 0.5 percent.

Nothing much has happened on GMO seed thresholds since then.

Green groups say seed thresholds should not exceed a 0.1 percent
technical detection level, since anything higher makes it impossible to
meet strong consumer demand for non-GMO food: a view backed by GMO-
sceptic countries Austria and Luxembourg.

The Commission report said to achieve such a low level would be
impossible if countries did not extensively apply rules for separating
traditional, organic and GMO crops -- a concept known as co-existence in
EU jargon.

"Guaranteeing that maize seeds will contain no more than 0.1 percent
adventitious (accidental) GM presence is not possible if co-existence
measures are limited to action on individual farms or coordination
between neighbouring farms," the statement said.

Green groups criticised the JRC's report, saying it assumed that a 0.9
percent threshold was a "target" for GMO presence rather than a maximum
permitted content. Another study should be carried out on keeping foods
and crops GMO-free, they said.

"The approach that the JRC has chosen in its report is completely flawed
and will lead to massive genetic contamination of the European
countryside," said Geert Ritsema, GMO campaigner at Greenpeace International.

"This report is biased towards the interest of the biotech industry and
goes against the will of the vast majority of European consumers who do
not want to eat GMO's," he said.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(*)
W: <>

   GENET-news mailing list