September 10, 2010

Greenpeace: Illegal BASF GM Potato Found In Sweden

The world's largest chemical company, BASF, was criticized recently after it told Brussels investigators that a "human error" was made after seeds from a new strain of genetically modified potato were found in a Swedish field.

The German company, which is authorized to grow a strain of GM potato called Amflora but not the experimental Amadea variety, told the European Commission that the wrong seed was accidentally fed into the wrong tube, according to commission spokesman Frederic Vincent.

BASF also cited "confusion" in a statement, after it was summoned to Brussels by the body which is responsible for licensing products long labeled "ËœFrankenfoods' by the media.

Vincent said Brussels investigators wanted answers on quality control checks at laboratory level in Germany as well as in the fields in the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden, where Amflora is grown.

The European Commission will send a team next week to "clarify the magnitude of the contamination in all seed lots of Amflora," Vincent added.

An expert with Greenpeace, which initially brought the contamination to light, said BASF's explanation was "worrying."

The company "has not answered if other countries also have this problem," Marco Contiero told the AFP news agency. He urged that all Amflora sites "starting with Sweden" be destroyed as a precautionary measure.

Regional authorities in northern Germany have already moved Tuesday to ban Amflora.

Brussels "strongly stressed that since Amadea is not authorized, it will not accept its growing in EU fields other than experimental fields," Vincent noted.

Greenpeace claims that Amadea, the subject of an application for authorization just days before the seeds were found in Sweden, has been "grown illegally in open fields in Sweden for months."

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy advisor Stefanie Hundsdorfer said: "This is a deplorable lapse in bio-security. Who knows what the effects of growing a largely untested GM crop for months in the open environment will be? The Swedish authorities should order all plants in the contaminated fields destroyed and BASF should test all Amflora fields and destroy all plants where contamination has occurred."

Swedish officials have ordered that all potato fields planted on June 11 be cleared of Amadea, but will allow Amflora plants to remain, despite the contamination. They have ordered BASF to account its GM potato fields in Germany and the Czech Republic.

More than 750,000 Europeans have signed a petition calling for a ban on all new GM crops in the European Union until a proper safety system can be mandated by the European Commission. The petition is set to be one of the first to test how serious the commission is about its policy, the Citizens' Initiative.


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