NOTE: It's sometimes claimed by pro-GM lobbyists that if any reason is found to ban a GM crop once it's been introduced, then this offers no more difficulty than, say, a drug recall. This article shows that in practice regaining control over an agricultural crop is far more challenging.

Thanks to Claire Robinson for the translation. For the original article in French see
GM crop reapers detect illegal GM maize on the farm of a small farmer [summary]
Le Monde, 11 July 2008

Small farmer Jean-Louis Cuquel has been summoned to appear in court at Montauban on July 10 following a writ served by Confédération Paysanne, Greenpeace and organic body Nature et Progrès. The reason: these groups found Monsanto’s GM maize MON810, banned since February, growing in one of his fields.

The Voluntary Reapers, farmers from Confédération Paysanne and members of other associations opposed to GMOs are conducting an ongoing investigation in different regions to attempt to identify GM crops.

The methods are well developed, as evidenced by the guide, "How to detect transgenic plants in fields" released by the GM Info group. Investigators take samples of the suspect maize, crush it into a juice and mix it with an inexpensive reactive substance. If the cardboard reacts, the test is positive. The mixture is then sent to labs to do further analysis according to standardized methods.

But Mr Cuquel, aged 40, is not a big farmer who stands to make a fortune from hundreds of hectares of maize. He built his own house over 12 years and lives there with his wife and child. He has only 20 hectares and finds it difficult to compete with cheap imports from Spain, Italy and Morocco. For the past 5 years he has had to work as a hospital porter, tending his land during the evenings, weekends and holidays

The GM maize? He says that before, he spread products [chemicals?] by helicopter. With the GM maize he doesn’t have to do that any longer. He says it’s healthier and gives a better yield. But MON810, approved in 2007, was banned in 2008. "They sold the seed in quantity, on pallets, so I had some left over last year,” he says. “A 180 euros per load, I could not afford to throw them away."

Indeed, the laboratory Ad. Gene at Thury-Harcourt (Calvados) contracted by the groups, found that samples collected in the field have "DNA derived from GMOs" in excess of 5%. For opponents of transgenic crops, the offence is no doubt. "We are not targeting the farmer, said Michel Dupont, of Confédération Paysanne, but the economic system which led to this illegal cultivation.

"The discovery of this cultivation of MON 810 means nothing is being done to enforce the moratorium," said José Bove, spokesman of the Voluntary Reapers. If nothing is done, this is the politics of ‘fait accompli’: contamination will become widespread, and all standards will be gradually relaxed."