Greenpeace tests on so called conventional seeds due for planting in the coming weeks in the EU show they are contaminated with genetically engineered (GE) seeds.

The findings add to the mounting evidence of widespread illegal GE pollution in Europe.(1) Tests on three maize varieties in Austria by an independent laboratory show the presence of both Monsanto and Novartis strains of GE seed.(2) Two further cases were uncovered in Germany last week.

While the spring planting season has begun, Greenpeace warns that farmers cannot be certain of the true nature of the seeds they are planting because of the frequency of contamination.

At least three of the cases discovered in Europe this spring involve contamination with GE varieties, which are illegal to plant in Europe - Novartis BT11 maize and Monsanto's GA21. (3)

"It's clear that these examples only represent the tip of the iceberg as many countries either do not have the resources or facilities to test seeds for GE contamination, or in some cases they lack the political will to protect their farmers and consumers from genetic pollution," said Lorenz Petersen of Greenpeace International.

"Monsanto, Aventis and Novartis (now known as Syngenta) the primary producers of GE products world-wide, have an obligation to ensure their manipulated grains do not contaminate pure seeds, and they are consistently negligent as far as that responsibility goes."

Greenpeace is demanding that the EU and national authorities take the appropriate measures to ensure that zero tolerance of seed contamination by unapproved varieties is enforced and that the contaminated seeds be withdrawn from the market or destroyed if already planted.

Reliable quality certification regimes should be implemented to prevent further GE contamination. Farmers, retailers and the organic food sectors should be compensated by the GE seed companies on the basis of the polluter pays principle, which is fundamental principle of EU environmental law.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
For further information:
Lorenz Petersen, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering
Campaigner, Tel: +49 3030889927; Briget Gavin,
Greenpeace EU Unit: +32 22801400 or +32 495693710,
Lorenzo Consoli, Media Officer, Greenpeace EU Unit
Mob: +32 496 122 112


Notes to editors: (1) In Italy hundreds of tons of illegal GE Soya and maize remain blocked in the ports. The Agricultural minister has ordered an investigation of Italy's 21 seed companies while the farmers committed to 'safe sowing' have called for the destruction of the seeds.

In Greece, imported cottonseeds have been found to be contaminated again this year.

In the UK, government scientists are investigating possible contamination of two conventional varieties of oilseed rapes.

In Canada, which exports seeds to the EU, Monsanto had to recall its Canola variety "Quest" because it was contaminated with a GE variety not approved by the importing countries.

Last year more than 6,000 hectares of farmland in the EU were planted with GE contaminated oilseed rape in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and the UK. Furthermore, in France, up to 4,800 hectares of land were planted with GE contaminated maize seeds.

(2) Three maize varieties were tested at "Ökolab" laboratory. The conventional variety Pioneer PR39D81 was contaminated with the GE varieties Novartis BT11 and Monsanto Mon810 or Mon 809 (the distinction is not analytically possible). The Mon810 variety illegal in Austria although it has approval in the rest of the EU. The Mon 809 has not been granted EU approval to date.

(3) Before GE seeds can be sold or planted in the EU they must have been granted market consent under the Deliberate Release Directive 90/220/EEC. In response to last year's contamination scandals the EU introduced measures, which require the member states to test seeds. A zero threshold applies to all GE seeds not covered under 90/220 and 0.5 percent to all authorised GE material.