Furore over seeds

Published: Friday 30 June 2000

in a late disclosure that triggered the wrath of environmentalists across Europe, the seed company Advanta issued a statement that farmers in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden were unwittingly growing genetically modified ( gm ) rapeseed crops. The seeds had apparently been contaminated by its gm variety in Canada from where they had been imported by Advanta.

Assuring consumers that the area sown with gm rapeseed was small and that there was no health risk involved, Advanta spokesperson David Buckeridge said: "In Germany and France in particular we are talking about hundreds of hectares in an area of millions of hectares." Environmentalists were, however, not convinced. Moreover, organic farmers were concerned that their crops would be contaminated by gm material even if the latter were grown at some distance from their farms.

On the other hand, within days of the statement issue by Advanta, the French government, faced with growing pressure from its Green Party and activists opposed to gm food products, decided to destroy 60 hectares of rapeseed crop whose seeds had been mixed with the gm seeds.

A statement issued by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's office pointed out: "After careful examination of the immediate ways of remedying the situation, the government decided to call on the groups involved to proceed with the destruction of the rapeseed plants."

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