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GM Contamination Register
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Poor quality control in laboratory

Ampicillin resistance and GM crops (pdf file 80KB)
GM Contamination Register Report 2005

Ireland – Bt10 maize found in imports

On May 25th 2005, Ireland notified the European Commission and other Member States that illegal GM maize variety Bt10 had been found in a shipment of maize gluten. Two thousand five hundred and forty six tonnes of the Bt10 contaminated maize arrived in Ireland aboard the Helena Oldendorff on Wednesday 25 May at Greenore Port in Co. Louth.

As of mid-August 2005, the maize is still in storage at the port, awaiting disposal to be organised by the importer, Arcady Feeds Ltd, who according to the Irish Minister of Agriculture, is reponsible for its disposal. In a letter to the Green Party leader, Trevor Sargent, on 24th June, she said: "Responsibility for disposal of this material rests with the importer. The importer has been requested to submit proposals for disposal of the material and has responded saying that they are currently exploring three options, viz incineration abroad; return to country of origin or possible composting within Ireland, the latter which would require the consent of the EPA".

The detection of the contaminated maize in Ireland followed an announcement by the European Commission on 1 April that around 1000 tonnes of Syngenta's illegal Bt10 GM maize has entered the European food chain in maize imports from the USA.

The mix up arose because Syngenta’s quality control procedures were not sufficiently rigorous and did not differentiate between Bt10 and another authorised line of GM maize, Bt11. As a result, Bt10 lines were mistakenly used in breeding. The error was detected after four years, when one of the US seed companies developing Bt11 varieties, Garst seeds, used more sophisticated techniques.

Both the Bt10 and Bt11 GM maize varieties are modified to be resistant to certain insect pests by the insertion of a Bt toxin gene from the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt10 also contains a marker gene that codes for the widely used antibiotic, ampicillin. According to the international Codex Alimentarius Guideline for Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Plants: “Antibiotic resistance genes used in food production that encode resistance to clinically used antibiotics should not be present in foods.”

A US Department of Agriculture investigation led to a $375,000 fine and Syngenta's was required to hold a compliance seminar. Under the terms of Syngenta's agreement with the USDA, the conference was to have the following goals:

“1.) develop a best management practices or technical guideline for insuring no contamination or cross contamination of biotech genes in the seed development and breeding program; and
2.) develop a best management practices or technical guideline to identify, promptly address, and implement corrective measures to resolve unintended biotech releases”.

The conference was held on December 6, 2005 at the annual American Seed Trade Association meeting held in Chicago. For a copy of a DVD of the proceedings and the power point presentations contact:

Lisa Zannoni
Head, Global Biotechnology Regulatory Affairs

The GM Contamination Register Report for 2005 has a special section on the Bt10 incident containing further details and references. It accessible via the downloads section in the left hand panel of this page.
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Further information

Bt10: Ireland notifies contaminated consignment stopped in port - European Commission Press Release 25th May 2005 >

European Commission Press Release 1st April 2005. Commission seeks clarification on Bt10 from US authorities and Syngenta. >

Syngenta press release 21st March 2005. >

Syngenta statements on Bt10. >

Macilwain, C. (2005) US launches probe into sales of unapproved transgenic corn Nature 434: 423 >

Letter from Mary Coughlan TP, Minister for Agriculture, Ireland, to Trevor Sargent Green Party TP, dated 24th June 2005 >

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