If GM contamination occurs, it is not a problem
GM contamination has had severe economic consequences for farmers, food and feed companies, and markets
“If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GM. It’s a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia; once it’s made, it can’t be reversed.”
– Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development163
GM contamination of crops has had severe economic consequences, threatening the livelihoods of farmers who receive premiums for growing organic and GM-free crops and blocking export markets to countries with strict regulations on GMOs.
Examples of GM contamination problems include:
- In 2011 an unauthorized GM Bt pesticidal rice, Bt63, was found in baby formula and rice noodles on sale in China.146 Contaminated rice products were also found in Germany147 and Sweden.148 The same rice was found in rice products in New Zealand in 2008, leading to product recalls.149 GM Bt rice has not been shown to be safe for human consumption. Periodic recalls of products contaminated with Bt63 rice continue to be reported even today in Europe.
- In 2009 an unauthorized GM flax called CDC Triffid contaminated Canadian flax seed supplies, resulting in the collapse of Canada’s flax export market to Europe.150,151
- In 2006 an unapproved experimental GM rice, grown only for one year in experimental plots, was found to have contaminated the US rice supply and seed stocks.152 Contaminated rice was found as far away as Africa, Europe, and Central America. In 2007 US rice exports were down 20% from the previous year as a result of the GM contamination.153 In 2011 the company that developed the GM rice, Bayer, agreed to pay $750 million to settle lawsuits brought by 11,000 US farmers whose rice crops were contaminated.154 A court ordered Bayer to pay $137 million in damages to Riceland, a rice export company, for loss of sales to the EU.155
- In Canada, contamination from GM oilseed rape has made it virtually impossible to cultivate organic, non-GM oilseed rape.156
- Organic maize production in Spain has dropped as the acreage of GM maize production has increased, due to contamination by cross-pollination with GM maize.157
- In 2000 GM StarLink maize, produced by Aventis (now Bayer CropScience), was found to have contaminated the US maize supply. StarLink had been approved for animal feed but not for human consumption. The discovery led to recalls of StarLink-contaminated food products across the US, spreading to Europe, Japan, Canada, and other countries. Costs to the food industry are estimated to have been around $1 billion.158 In addition, the US government bore indirect costs of between $172 and $776 million through the USDA’s Loan Deficiency Payments Program, which offers producers short-term loans and direct payments if the price of a commodity crop falls below the loan rate.159 Aventis paid out $110 million to farmers who brought a class action suit against the company160 and spent another $110 million buying back StarLink-contaminated maize.152
As no official body keeps records of GM contamination incidents, Greenpeace and Genewatch UK have stepped into the gap with their GM Contamination Register.161 In the years 2005–2007 alone, 216 contamination incidents were recorded in the database.162