Despite a ban on cultivation of GM rapeseed in Europe, Monsanto and Bayer's plants are now freely growing there, shows a new study
EXCERPT: The feral GM plants found most likely originated from imported transgenic seeds that were spilled during transport to oilseed processing facilities.
1. BREAKING: Monsanto/Bayer's GM plants contaminate Europe despite ban
2. Unexpected diversity of feral genetically modified oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) despite a cultivation and import ban in Switzerland – study
1. BREAKING: Monsanto/Bayer's GM plants contaminate Europe despite ban
GreenMedInfo, 25 Dec 2014
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."
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.
2. Unexpected diversity of feral genetically modified oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) despite a cultivation and import ban in Switzerland
Juerg Schulze, Tina Frauenknecht, Peter Brodmann, and Claudia Bagutti*
PLoS One. 2014; 9(12): e114477.
Published online Dec 2, 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114477
Despite cultivation and seed import bans of genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.), feral GM plants were found growing along railway lines and in port areas at four sites in Switzerland in 2011 and 2012. All GM plants were identified as glyphosate-resistant GM event GT73 (Roundup Ready, Monsanto). The most affected sites were the Rhine port of Basel and the St. Johann freight railway station in Basel. To assess the distribution and intra- and interspecific outcrossing of GM oilseed rape in more detail, we monitored these two sites in 2013. Leaves and seed pods of feral oilseed rape plants, their possible hybridization partners and putative hybrid plants were sampled in monthly intervals and analysed for the presence of transgenes by real-time PCR. Using flow cytometry, we measured DNA contents of cell nuclei to confirm putative hybrids. In total, 2787 plants were sampled. The presence of GT73 oilseed rape could be confirmed at all previously documented sampling locations and was additionally detected at one new sampling location within the Rhine port. Furthermore, we found the glufosinate-resistant GM events MS8xRF3, MS8 and RF3 (all traded as InVigor, Bayer) at five sampling locations in the Rhine port. To our knowledge, this is the first time that feral MS8xRF3, MS8 or RF3 plants were detected in Europe. Real-time PCR analyses of seeds showed outcrossing of GT73 into two non-GM oilseed rape plants, but no outcrossing of transgenes into related wild species was observed. We found no hybrids between oilseed rape and related species. GM plants most frequently occurred at unloading sites for ships, indicating that ship cargo traffic is the main entry pathway for GM oilseed rape. In the future, it will be of major interest to determine the source of GM oilseed rape seeds.