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New evidence reveals that despite a ban on cultivation of GM rapeseed in Europe, Monsanto and Bayer's plants are now freely growing there.
A new study published in PLoS titled ,"Unexpected Diversity of Feral Genetically Modified Oilseed Rape (Brassica napus L.) Despite a Cultivation and Import Ban in Switzerland," is believed to be the first report of its kind showing that despite a cultivation and seed import ban of genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape in Switzerland, Monsanto and Bayer's GM plants have been introduced into the environment there, confirming fears that once the GM genie has been let out of the bottle it can not be put back.
The GM plants were found growing freely along railway lines and in port areas at four sites in 2011 and 2012, with the most afflicted being the Rhine port of Basel and the St. Johann freight railway station in Basel, Switzerland.
The glyphosate-resistant GM plants were identified as Monsanto's Roundup-Ready GM event GT73. Additionally, the researchers found the glufosinate-resistant GM events MS8xRF3, MS8 and RF3 (all traded as InVigor, Bayer) at five sampling locations in the Rhine port. They noted that this is, to their knowledge, the first time that Bayer's feral MS8xRF3, MS8 or RF3 plants were detected in Europe.
Another concerning finding was the discovery of 'outcrossing' (transference of genetic material between differing plant strains) between Monsanto's GT73 GM plant and two non-GM oilseed rape plants. This confirms fears that GM plants are capable of transforming conventional and/or organically produced plants into GM ones (i.e. 'biorape').
In fact, the study addresses this possibility directly:
"Another concern with respect to the cultivation of GM OSR [genetically modified oilseed rape] is an unintended gene flow towards conventional or organic OSR crops which could lead to co-existence conflicts between different farming systems ."
What is even more remarkable about the discovery of feral GM plants in Europe is that they have been banned from cultivation:
"In the European Union, GM OSR cultivation is presently prohibited and authorization for the import for food and feed processing is confined to the GM OSR events GT73 (Roundup Ready, Monsanto), MS8, RF3, MS8xRF3 and T45 (all traded as InVigor, Bayer CropScience). GM crop plants have found even less acceptance in Switzerland where currently neither the import nor the cultivation of GM OSR is allowed at least until the end of 2017 , . Nevertheless, the spread of GM OSR cannot totally be prevented by cultivation or import bans. In Japan, where GM OSR is imported but not cultivated, feral glyphosate- and glufosinate-resistant GM OSR plants have repeatedly been detected in port areas and along transportation routes -. The feral GM plants found most likely originated from imported transgenic seeds that were spilled during transport to oilseed processing facilities. Two countrywide studies from Switzerland have reported the occurrence of glyphosate-resistant GT73 OSR from four sites in 2011 and 2012 , . The case of Switzerland is remarkable, because GM OSR has neither been cultivated nor imported into the country." [emphasis added]
If Switzerland has banned both the cultivation and importation of GM rapeseed plants into the country, how did they end up there?
The authors of the study propose the feral GT73 OSR "probably originated from spillage of conventional OSR seeds or other seed imports that were contaminated with GM seeds."
This raises a larger question: how much of the world's food supply is now contaminated with GM plant material?
As we reported on last year in an article titled, "Illegal StarLink™ GM Corn Resurfaces in Saudi Arabian Food Supply," StarLink™ maize, the first genetically modified organism to be pulled off the market over a decade ago due to safety concerns, was recently found to be contaminating food products in Saudi Arabia. Also, the recent discovery of illegal Monsanto GMO wheat growing freely in an Oregon field, illustrates just how little control and knowledge we have about the extent of contamination of both the biosphere and our food supply.
The larger implications of discoveries like these is illegal (unapproved) GM plants may still be produced in the US (accidentally or by intention), and exported domestically and abroad, admixed with conventional and/or organically-certified materials.
Sayer Ji is the founder of GreenMedInfo.com, an author, educator, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), and an advisory board member of the National Health Federation.