New report shows 2006 was worst year ever for contamination of crops by rogue genetically engineered variants

Greenpeace demands an international agreement to hold GE companies liable for environmental and economic damage

Press release - 19 February, 2007
The huge and growing burden of contamination of non-GE crops by genetically engineered variants is highlighted today, as Greenpeace and GeneWatch publish “The GM contamination register report”, which provides a detailed overview of the significant contamination events from around the world(1) in 2006.

The report shows that GE contamination reached recordlevels in 2006 with a total of twenty-four major incidents reported. Thecomplete online register ( details 142 cases of unintended release, illegal planting and harmfulagricultural impacts of GE crops, recorded from around the world in the lastdecade.

The launch of the report coincides with an internationalmeeting of legal and technical experts in Montreal, who are considering whethercompanies manufacturing GE seeds should be liable for the economic andenvironmental damage caused when these varieties contaminate non-GE crops.Greenpeace and GeneWatch UK are calling on the negotiators to put in place abinding international regime to enforce this liability.

“Asour report has shown, there is an urgent need for a strong liability treaty,”said Doreen Stabinsky of Greenpeace International.  “2006 has been the worst year yet for GE contamination.  A strong treaty would make sure thatcompanies profiting from the technology are made to pay for the economic andenvironmental damage caused by their products. Without liability protection, it is small farmers around the world whowill pay the price.”

GEmaize is one of the most problematic crops, according to the report.  GE maize was involved in nearly one-third ofall contamination incidents over the last decade, with four incidents of maizeseed contamination (in four different countries) reported in 2006.Contamination of maize seed is a serious problem for both farmers and consumersaround the world, but particularly in areas where traditional varieties arestill grown. Even though Mexico – the birthplace of maize – does not currentlyallow field trials or commercial farming of GE maize, traditional varieties ofmaize have been contaminated.  Brazil –also a centre of diversity for maize and home of many valuable indigenous varieties– is also identified as being at high risk.

BeckyPrice from GeneWatch UK said, “Contamination from genetically engineered cropsis a growing problem that countries must take seriously in order to protectfarmers’ and consumers’ choice to grow and eat GE-free food.  By linking contamination to economicpenalties for biotechnology companies, we stand a much higher chance ofprotecting the world’s food and seed supplies for future generations.” 

VVPR info: Namrata Chowdhary, Greenpeace International Communications: +31 646 1973 27Becky Price, Researcher, GeneWatch UK. +44-7949-396-328Doreen Stabinsky, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International. +1-202-285-7398

Notes: 1. The report contains maps depicting the location of global contamination incidents in 2006. To view and download the maps, please visit: 2. The GM contamination register is a biosafety information resource included on the official UN Biosafety Clearinghouse website. 3. The working group is meeting under the auspices of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a global treaty on genetically engineered organisms, in Montreal from 19 February to 23 February.