Spanish GM crops causing 'massive contamination'

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gm crops European union

The dramatic uptake of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Spain is
causing massive genetic contamination according to Greenpeace -
though this is not a view shared by everyone.

In a new report entitled 'Impossible Coexistence', the environmental pressure group claims that Spanish GM proliferation Spain is the only EU country that grows GM crops on a large scale is undermining agricultural biodiversity and consumer choice.

"This report should be taken as a warning to the Commission and Europe in general of the dangers of GM production, "​ said Greenpeace campaigner Geert Ritsema from Vienna where a major European Commission conference on coexistence begins today.

"Despite guarantees by various Spanish governments that guidelines and controls would ensure safety, farmers and consumer choice the reality has been the opposite.

"Testimonials from farmers demonstrate that the unabated growth of the GM industry now represents the single largest threat to their livelihoods, especially in the regions Aragn and Catalonia where GM crops are mainly cultivated."

But not everyone subscribes to this view. Simon Barber, director of the plant biotechnology unit at EuropaBio - the European association for bioindustries, says that co-existence of GM and non-GM crops is already a reality in Spain.

"A quarter of a million hectares of Bt maize has been grown since 1998 with no substantiated problems,"​ he said.

"This is also the situation in other parts of the world, where millions of hectares are grown without problems.

If the Vienna conference is about ensuring choice, why does this conference not give the floor to the many farmers, grain handlers, local political leaders and scientists who from these countries can actually share their positive experiences?"

But Greenpeace claims that the report, written in cooperation with farmer organisation Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group Plataforma Trangnics Fora!, is based on research including laboratory tests of samples taken from the maize fields of 40 Spanish organic and conventional farmers.

It claims to show that in almost a quarter of the investigated cases, unintended and unwanted presence of GM maize was found in the maize fields of non-GM farmers. The pressure group says that contamination was as high as 12.6 per cent.

"In several cases the affected farmers suffered economic losses, as they were not able anymore to sell the contaminated maize at a premium market value,"​ claimed the report.

As a result, Greenpeace is calling on the Spanish authorities to suspend the cultivation of GM in Spain. It is also calling on EU ministers and the European Commission to prevent the cultivation of GM crops in other EU countries.

"The Spanish experience demonstrates that GM and non-GM co-existence is a fallacy,"​ said Ritsema. "European Ministers attending this week's meeting should seriously consider whether they wish it upon the farmers and consumers in the rest of Europe."

Related topics Science Food Safety & Quality

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