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GM Contamination Register
Incident details
Region/Continent and country:
Oceania / Australia
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Oilseed rape/canola
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Human error or via imported seed

Australia - contamination of oilseed rape exports by unapproved GM variety

A routine test in Victoria in June 2005 by the Australian Barley Board of an oilseed rape container that was destined for Japan revealed low (about 0.01%) levels of contamination with a GM oilseed rape variety, Topas 19/2, produced by Bayer.

Topas 19/2 is tolerant to Bayer�s herbicide, glufosinate (Liberty) and is approved for growing and human consumption in Australia by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand. However, the Topas is not approved for planting in Victoria, which, like all other major oilseed rape growing states, has a moratorium or prohibition on the commercial growing of GM oilseed rape. Victoria has allowed small scale plantings of GM oilseed rape by Bayer - but not of the Topas 19/2.

It is now reported that tests conducted in August 2005 have revealed GM contamination of non-GM oilseed rape seed in Western Australia as well.

Contamination of oilseed rape by the GM Topas 19/2 variety was also detected in a third state, South Australia, in August 2005, during routine testing by AAB Grain. The levels are reported to be low at around 0.01%.

An industry taskforce has been established to identify the source of the GM contamination. However, on 21 September 2005, the Weekly Times reported that the investigation had come to a dead end but that it was thought the contamination had come from North America. A later report in September 2006 said the cause of the problem had still not been completely resolved but was now thought to have been due to an error in labelling the seed resulting in GM seed from trials being mixed with non-GM seed.
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Further information

Office of the Gene Technology Regulator. Genetically modified canola detected in Victoria safe as conventional canola. Media Release,14 July 2005. >

Traces of approved GM material confirmed in canola grain. Bayer CropScience Press Release, 14 July 2005 >

Australian crops face 'serious genetic contamination'. The New Zealand Herald, August 9 2005 >

GM canola contamination in South Australia. ABC, September 1, 2005 >

Australia GM canola investigation. Taskforce to investigate GM canola occurrence August 25, 2005. Agrifood News Archive >

Human error 'probable cause' of GM canola mix-up. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, September 7, 2006 >

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