BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Science/Nature  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
How likely is GM crop contamination?
Oil seed rape field
Oil seed rape crops are especially at risk
As the European Parliament votes to introduce strict labelling on foods containing genetically modified ingredients, the BBC's science correspondent, Ania Lichtarowicz, looks at how likely contamination between GM and non-GM crops is.

Fears about accidental contamination have been discussed since the first genetically modified crops were created.

Current scientific techniques mean that genetic changes made to plants are permanent.

Greenpeace campaigner Lord Melchett
Anti-GM campaigners have long protested about contamination
When a new gene - for instance one which will make the crop resistant to certain pests - is inserted into DNA from a plant cell, it is then found in every cell of the resulting plant.

This includes the pollen, which can spread to neighbouring fields and fertilise non-GM crops.

If this happens, new plants in that field may contain the GM gene.

Research published last week showed clearly that GM pollen can contaminate fields up to three kilometres (1.85 miles) away.

Accidental contamination

But scientists are keen to point out that every plant's pollen is different. In the case of oil seed rape - the pollen is tiny and can easily be carried by wind.

Research and pressure group Genewatch says that in Canada for instance, it is almost impossible to buy GM-free oil seed rape as farmers cannot guarantee their stocks have not been contaminated.

Accidental contamination can also happen after harvesting and is often down to human error.

For example, GM-free grain can be contaminated if it is transported in a truck which had previously held GM varieties.

The European Union says accidental contamination with genetically modified organisms is lower on organic farms because separate production and marketing channels already exist for organic produce.

In animals that have been fed GM food, the scenario is slightly different. Here, contamination of meat and dairy produce by foreign DNA is highly unlikely but not impossible.

See also:

09 Jun 02 | Americas
13 Jun 00 | UK Politics
04 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
02 May 01 | Business
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Science/Nature stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes