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GM Contamination Register
Incident details
Region/Continent and country:
Europe / UK
Category of incident:
What was contaminated:
GM organism involved:
Oilseed rape/canola
Year incident occurred:

Route of contamination
Seed mixing

UK - presence of unapproved GM in conventional oilseed rape trial

On 12th September 2008 the Scottish Executive announced that trial sowings of a new variety of conventional oilseed rape in Scotland were found to contain small amounts of unauthorised GM material.

Two locations in Aberdeenshire and one in Arbroath had been planted in trials due to be carried out across England and Scotland. The plants were harvested early and the seeds sent for destruction to the UK’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

However, on 19th December the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that “Conventional oilseed rape seed that contained a low level of unapproved GM seed was sown at a trial site in Somerset, England”.

The GM event was identified as GT73 which is authorised for food and animal feed use in the EU, but not for unrestricted cultivation. According to DEFRA test indicate that the seed found in Somerset was contaminated with 0.05% GT73.

Update: March 2011

Following an appeal by campaign group GM Freeze, an Information Tribunal has upheld Defra's decision to keep secret the location of a field of winter oilseed rape in Somerset. The Tribunal ruled that levels of contamination were too low to justify lifting the data protection rights of the landowner.

We are disappointed in the ruling, but we note it depends on the low contamination level in this case, said Pete Riley, Director of GM Freeze. We strongly believe that neighbours should be informed of any GM contamination that might affect their fields, and we will be back to make this case again if another incident occurs.

Many organisations, including Somerset, Dorset and Devon County Councils, South Somerset District and all neighbouring District Councils, as well as GM Freeze requested the precise (six figure map reference) of the field after the contamination was announced by Defra in December 2008.

The reason for refusing to release the map reference was that it was felt not to be in the public interest because the reputation and business of the landowner could be harmed if the location was disclosed. It was decided that this was not justified in view of the low level of contamination (0.05% or 5 plants in 10,000).
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Further information

The Scottish Government new release: Unauthorised GM release (12 September 2008) >

The Herald: Illegal GM crops are found in Scotland (13 September 2008) >

Western Gazette - Somerset GM blunder prompts contamination fears (2 January 2009) >

DEFRA INFORMATION BULLETIN Ref: 396/08 - Presence of unapproved GM in conventional oilseed rape trial (19 December 2008) >

GM Freeze PR: Tribunal Decides: Somerset GM Contamination Site Should be Kept Secret (10 March 2011) >

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