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GE - CROPS: GENETIC POLLUTION PROVED



> STRICTLY EMBARGOED: 22:30 hrs Wednesday 29th September 1999 
> GM CROPS: GENETIC POLLUTION PROVED 
> GM Pollen Found Miles from Trial Site 
>
> Government policy on GM food and crops suffered another shattering blow 
> today after GM oilseed rape pollen was found by scientists four and a half 
> kilometres from an official farm scale trial site [1]. The Government's 
> rules for the farm scale trials require only a 50 metre separation 
> distance between GM crops and other fields [2]. These are the first 
> monitoring results of GM pollen from a farm scale trial. They show GM 
> pollen at distances further than ever previously detected and shows the 
> scale of the threat the trials pose to non-GM crops, beekeepers and the 
> wider environment [3]. 
> The errant GM pollen was found during a GM monitoring and analysis 
> programme organised by Friends of the Earth and Newsnight, around Model 
> Farm, near Watlington, Oxfordshire. The monitoring was carried out by the 
> National Pollen Research Unit and a bee specialist, and the GM analysis 
> was carried out by the Federal Environment Agency in Austria. These 
> disturbing results will severely embarrass the Government on the day of 
> the environment debate at the Labour Party conference. Earlier this month 
> the Government was forced to admit that trials of winter oilseed rape are 
> illegal, after a Court challenge by Friends of the Earth showed that the 
> rules governing consent for such trials had been broken to suit the 
> convenience of biotech giant AgrEvo. 
> The study, which looked at pollen carried by bees and in the air showed 
> that:: 
> All six bee hives monitored - located at between 500 metres and 4.5 
> kilometres from the GM crop - were found to contain GM oilseed rape pollen 
> [3]; 
> Airborne GM pollen was detected at up to 475 metres from the trial site 
> [4]. 
> Charles Secrett, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, said: 
> "This study shows that genetic pollution from the farm scale trials is 
> already happening. Earlier this month we forced the Government to admit 
> that the new farm scale trials are illegal. This week, we have shown that 
> all the current GM trials threaten local farmers, beekeepers and the 
> environment. This must be the death blow for the whole GM trials 
> programme. Let Tony Blair use the Labour Party conference to announce that 
> it will now be stopped. Nothing less will reassure the public that the 
> Government gives a hoot about the environmental safety of GM food and 
> crops." 
> * ENDS- 
> 
> 
> NOTES TO EDITORS 
> [1] Friends of the Earth contracted the National Pollen Research 
> Unit at University College, Worcester to monitor airborne pollen on 
> roads and public rights of way around the farm scale trial for spring 
> oilseed rape at Model Farm, Pirton, Near Watlington, Oxfordshire in June 
> and July 1999. Access problems (the farmer owned most of the land in 
> the vicinity) meant that permanent monitoring sites could not be set up 
> and therefore spot samples were used. See attached summary. 
> 
> Pollen traps were placed on six bee hives sited in the area of the farm 
> scale trial in June and July 1999. Two were 500 metres from the crop, 
> two were 2.75 kilometres from the crop and two were 4.5 km. The pollen 
> was collected and analysed by a bee and honey consultant , Sarah 
> Brookes, of Evesham, Worcestershire. 
> 
> Newsnight sent six samples of airborne pollen and 6 of beehive pollen 
> were sent to the laboratory of the Federal Environment Agency in Austria 
> for DNA analysis. All six beehive samples were found to contain GM 
> oilseed rape pollen from an AgrEvo variety and 2 out of 6 airborne 
> samples. 
> 
> [2] The Supply Chain Initiative on the Modified Agricultural Crops 
> (SCIMAC) code of practice for growing GM herbicide resistant crops has 
> been endorsed by the UK Government. The maximum separation distance for 
> GM oilseed crops and conventional crops is 50m. For seed crops and 
> organic crops the recommended distance is 200m. 
> 
> [3] Research by the Scottish Crop Research Institute reported at the 
> Gene Flow in Agriculture: Revelence for Transgeneic Crops Conference, 
> Keele University April 1999 (British Crop Protection Council Symposium 
> Proceedings No 72) reported oilseed rape pollen at 4km from a field of 
> oilseed rape. 
> 
> -- 
> 
> Neil Verlander 
> Press Office 
> Friends of the Earth 
> 0171 566 1649