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GM Contamination Register
Incident details
Region/Continent and country:
South America / Uruguay
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Native landraces
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Route of contamination

Uruguay GM Maize contamination in fields

Scientists from Uruguay's University of the Republic have published findings in the Journal Environmental Biosafety Research (25 March) stating that they have found GM seedlings in three traditional maize fields.

In Uruguay the cultivation of GM maize is allowed. The varieties MON810 and Bt11 were approved for commercial planting in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Governmental regulations specify that GM and non-GM crop fields should be more than 250 metres apart to avoid cross-fertilisation and ensure their "regulated coexistence", and that 10 per cent of the field should be non-GM to provide a refuge area for biodiversity.

In this study, scientists analysed five pairs of commercial maize fields where farmers planted GM maize at the same time as a nearby non-GM maize crop. In three cases they detected foreign genes (transgenes) from GM maize, in seedlings produced by seeds taken from the non-GM crops. The transgenes were presumably blown over in pollen from the GM fields.

The highest percentage of transgenic seedlings was 0.83 per cent in a field 100 metres from the GM maize field.

In one case, the cross-fertilisation occurred despite a Eucalyptus tree barrier (12 metres high, 30 metres wide) separating the fields, and another case involved cross-fertilisation between fields more than 250 metres apart.

Cross-fertilisation may therefore be "a common situation in Uruguay", the authors said, adding that the area planted with GM maize in the country is increasing.

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Further information

Hirschfeld, D. (5 May 2011) GM maize contaminates non-GM crops in Uruguay. SciDev Net >

Pablo, G., et al (2011) Cross-fertilization between genetically modified and non-genetically modified maize crops in Uruguay. Environmental Biosafety Research. DOI: 10.1051/ebr/2011100 >

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