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CONTAMINATION & REGULATION: Monsanto Hungary seeks to suspend forced destruction of maize thought to be GM-tainted



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   MONSANTO SEEKS TO SUSPEND FORCED DESTRUCTION OF MAIZE THOUGHT TO BE GM-TAINTED

SOURCE:  The Budapest Business Journal, Hungary

AUTHOR:  MTI, Hungary

URL:     http://www.bbj.hu/business/monsanto-seeks-to-suspend-forced-destruction-of-maize-thought-to-be-gm-tainted_58949

DATE:    18.07.2011

SUMMARY: "The Hungarian unit of US seed giant Monsanto has appealed to the Budapest Municipal Court to suspend a resolution by Hungary?s Agriculture Office ordering hybrid maize sold by the company to be torn up, Monsanto Hungaria technical director Mihaly Czepo told MTI on Monday. [...] Monsanto Hungaria?s own tests as well as one by an independent, accredited laboratory in France show the company?s DKC 3511 hybrid seeds contain no genetically modified compounds, Czepo said. [...] ?Monsanto sells only conventional seeds in Hungary, seeds that have not been genetically modified,? the company said."

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MONSANTO SEEKS TO SUSPEND FORCED DESTRUCTION OF MAIZE THOUGHT TO BE GM-TAINTED

The Hungarian unit of US seed giant Monsanto has appealed to the Budapest Municipal Court to suspend a resolution by Hungary?s Agriculture Office ordering hybrid maize sold by the company to be torn up, Monsanto Hungaria technical director Mihaly Czepo told MTI on Monday.

The Agriculture Office has recently ordered maize to be destroyed on hundreds of hectares because it is tainted with genetically modified organisms.

Monsanto Hungaria?s own tests as well as one by an independent, accredited laboratory in France show the company?s DKC 3511 hybrid seeds contain no genetically modified compounds, Czepo said. Monsanto is urging the government to have an independent laboratory confirm the results of the Agriculture Office?s own test on the seeds or to allow the company to buy up the maize on the roughly 2,500 hectares affected, he added.

?Monsanto sells only conventional seeds in Hungary, seeds that have not been genetically modified,? the company said.

Deputy state secretary at the Rural Development Ministry Lajos Bognar said the Agriculture Office is bound to act on the basis of seed samples and the Monsanto seeds tested GMO positive.



                                  PART 2

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

TITLE:   IMPORTED SEED BLAMED AS GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN DESTROYED

SOURCE:  The Budapest Times, Hungary

AUTHOR:  Judit Szilák

URL:     http://www.budapesttimes.hu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=19762&Itemid=219

DATE:    15.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Authorities have destroyed 400 hectares of GMO-infected sweetcorn in the counties of Fejér, Hajdú-Bihar, Baranya and Szolnok, agricultural state secretary Lajos Bognár told state news agency MTI on Monday. Corn-growing areas have been undergoing inspection since the beginning of this year, and a law passed in March requires corn to be tested for genetically modified organisms before it goes on sale. Bognár said inspections will continue but the onus remains on seed-corn marketers to ensure their product contains no GMO."

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IMPORTED SEED BLAMED AS GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN DESTROYED

Authorities have destroyed 400 hectares of GMO-infected sweetcorn (maize) in the counties of Fejér, Hajdú-Bihar, Baranya and Szolnok, agricultural state secretary Lajos Bognár told state news agency MTI on Monday. 

Corn-growing areas have been undergoing inspection since the beginning of this year, and a law passed in March requires corn to be tested for genetically modified organisms (GMO) before it goes on sale. Bognár said inspections will continue but the onus remains on seed-corn marketers to ensure their product contains no GMO.

Greenpeace and the National Society of Conservationists are demanding stricter inspections and to change the rules on the importation of seeds.

Multinationals deny wrongdoing

He said inspectors found Pioneer and Monsanto products among the infected seeds. Szigetchem Agrokémiai imported the seeds for the 131 hectares of corn destroyed in Baranya county. Szigetchem CEO László Kósa said: ?They were bought from Monsanto?s Romanian subsidiary.? Of the 5,000 sacks Szigetchem bought, 196 were found to be GMO-infected. Kósa said Szigetchem, Monsanto and its Romanian subsidiary will probably appeal against the finding. He said Monsanto conducted tests on the seeds in a Paris laboratory and it gave them the all-clear.

Too late to replant, farmers complain

Farmers in Baranya county complained about the timing of the inspections, wondering why authorities took so long to find GMO-infected seeds. It is now too late to sow a new batch in mid-July, so all of their crop for the year has gone to waste. 

A very serious attack on agriculture

Adding to their problems the company in Szigetvár that sold them the GMO seeds is in the middle of a liquidation process, so even if international seed producers pay damages they will go first to the company?s creditors, not the farmers.

In Fejér county more than 70 hectares of seeds were destroyed, Ottó Pálmai, director of the Fejér County Government Office of Plant Protection and Soil Conservation Directorate, told MTI. So far two cornfields seemed to be infected, although there are more samples being tested at laboratories, he said. These types of seeds bloom in July, after which the infection cannot be contained and will spread to the rest of the produce, Pálmai added, so infected seeds must be identified and destroyed as soon as possible.

Pálmai said the situation is a very serious attack on Hungarian agriculture. ?It?s unimaginable that seed producers unknowingly brought GMO-infected seeds to Hungary,? he said, especially in such large quantities, ?after the government reassured everyone that there are no GMO seeds in Hungary?.

The EU has laws to monitor the use of GMO in products and make it mandatory for every member state to label such products whether they contain GMO or not.

Benefits to farmers

In a 2003 study the Food and Agriculture Organis-ation of the United Nations (FAO) examined the potential benefits and negative effects of genetically manipulated food. Crops are modified genetically so they are resistant to pesticide, repel pests that would eat them, resist weeds or withstand severe weather conditions such as floods and droughts. 

GMO crops that are pest-resistant could greatly reduce the chemicals needed for crop protection. Rice injected with vitamin A improves the health of people living in developing countries where it is the staple diet. The genetic modification of fruits and vegetables can make them less likely to spoil in storage or on the way to market.

Biodiversity fears

As consumers do not generally benefit directly from these modifications, what they are most concerned about is the health effects of eating GMO food. The FAO lists the unpredictability of gene manipulation among the potential dangers. 

Genes from pesticide-resistant corn can easily transfer to other plants, so if, for example, weeds acquire this gene they would also become pesticide-resistant. GMO crops could pose a threat to crop biodiversity. It is unclear how eating GMO food affects health in the long term, and it is feared that insects eating pesticide-resistant GMO crops might also become pesticide-resistant. 

Health concerns

Health risks to humans are debated. Allergenic genes could be transferred from GMO crops containing them to humans, causing dangerous reactions in people with allergies, such as when an allergenic Brazil-nut gene was transferred into a soybean variety. In another case genes that confer antibiotic resistance are inserted into GMOs as ?markers? to indicate that the process of gene transfer has succeeded. Concerns have been expressed about the possibility that these ?marker genes? could confer resistance to antibiotics in humans.

NGOs out front

Greenpeace and the National Society of Conservationists called for stricter inspections and the revision of seed import practices in a statement to MTI this week. They urge authorities to make seed producers accountable for not checking their produce for GMO more thoroughly, as well as compensating farmers for their losses following the destruction of GMO-infected corn crops. They maintain that the cost of making cornfields GMO-free should fall on the seed-producing companies because they are responsible.

?In order to ensure Hungary is free of genetically manipulated products ?food sovereignty? must be introduced in connection with seeds as well, instead of importing crop seed from abroad,? Róbert Fridrich, programme director for the National Society of Conservationists, said.

Balázs Tömöri, Greenpeace?s campaign manager, said: ?It?s unacceptable that foreign seed producers endanger the livelihood of Hungarian farmers and the good name of Hungarian agriculture by their irresponsible policies.?

The edge of the wedge

Ecologist and forensic expert Imre Lánszki insisted that after this fiasco Hungary will not be in a position to reject GMO in the future, and Hungarian seeds will be at a disadvantage, which may compromise the productivity of national farming. 

Lánszki said that the GMO corn ploughed under early this month would have affected animal farming when used as fodder; moreover, the corn could have been used for human consumption.