GM food through the back door

July 2012
Basmati Rice
Basmati rice. Photo by cookbookman17 on Flickr
Despite its almost total rejection of GM in food, feed and the environment, Europe is getting a lot of GM by the back door.

We all know about the GM animal feed widely used to produce our meat, eggs and dairy. Different UK supermarkets have confusingly different policies on what feed they allow, and consumers will rarely find a label to tell them what they're eating has been eating.

GM oilseed rape has been found growing wild in Switzerland. This country banned GM cultivation in 2005 and prohibits the importation of GM food and feed. Yet, tests showed that over 20% of oilseed rape growing near Basel's port area was Monsanto's GT73 strain, with a gene inserted to tolerate glyphosate herbicide boosted by a second gene to convert the excess glyphosate absorbed by the plant into a derivative, AMPA. It's suspected that the GM weeds derive from spillage during the transit of barges and freight trains. (COMMENT How many more patches of GM weeds are spreading out fro Europe's many ports?)

The discovery in 2010 of the global contamination of US long-grain rice with Bayer CropScience's experimental Liberty-Link (herbicide-tolerant) genes turned out to be the first of many waves of GM-adulterated rice. In 2011, the European Union recorded 47 incidents of gene-contaminated rice in shipments from China to several countries including Britain. This, despite GM rice development in China being prohibited along with all other staple grain crops. One Chinese journalist has suggested that “known GM scientists” have been illegally selling their GM rice seed “through companies they have stakes in ... The distribution of illegal GM rice seeds could be deliberate acts”.

The most recent rice scare has involved Basmati rice from Pakistan and India. A French food company which packs the rice for retail sale detected GM rice in a batch from four different suppliers, three Pakistani and one Indian. GM 'Basmati' rice has since turned up in other countries.

Cert ID Europe, which certifies non-GM seed, said:
“Basmati rice is a special, high value rice and assuming it is not available in GM form, one may conclude these consignments are being deliberately cut with cheap GM-rice to boost profits”. 
India has denied the allegation of GM contamination in its exported rice.

And, the latest novel food scare in Europe involves GM papaya from Thailand. GM crops are not allowed there but large-scale contamination of the papaya farms, apparently as a result of earlier field trials, has been a continuing problem. Be alert that, while fresh papaya on sale in UK supermarkets mainly comes from the Caribbean or South America which are not affected, processed forms of the fruit such as dried papaya from health stores may be from Thailand and may contain GM which has slipped through the net. Also, as GM-free Scotland reported last year there may be other sources of illegal imports:
Hawaiian GM papaya 'has been growing and sold for years' ... And, Hong Kong, 9,000 miles away, has become over-run by gene-contaminated papaya it never wanted!” (NON-GM IS BEAUTIFUL - December 2011)
Europe's problem now is that it can't put any trust or credence in the country-of-origin paperwork accompanying any of the above products, and you, the consumer, have even less to go on.


To summarise the above ways in which artificial genes are creeping into our lives whether we want them or not, we have:
  1. The secret, legal and deliberate GM contamination of our staple food sources of protein and calcium
  2. The accidental, but inevitable and uncontrollable GM contamination of our countryside
  3. Two GM food frauds (both involving staple grains) on the other side of the globe which have nevertheless spilled over into Europe
  4. The waste, due to GM contamination, of a very delicious fruit grown very easily across much of south-east Asia.

Putting this list another way: governments decide what we're allowed to know about our food, genes do not respect boundaries and do not label themselves, they can fall off trains, blow around in the wind, and be put in unexpected places by vested scientific and commercial interests. And it is the world's farmers and your health which will shoulder the burden.

For information on supermarkets' policy on GM animal feed, check out

If you want to keep up to date with the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed which will tell you about the latest GM transgressions uncovered, check out

And, if you want to minimise your exposure to GM, eat organic.

  • Dan Colombini, Food manufacturers warned f GMO rice fraud,, 11.04.12
  • Jyotika Sood, India denies GMO contamination in basmati, Down To Earth, 30.05.12
  • TN rice association's move to safeguard rice from genetic modification, Food & Beverage News, 5.06.12
  • Rapid Alert Notifications,
  • Genetically modified rapeseed spreading, World Radio Switzerland, 7.06.12
  • Akiko Frid, Illegal GE canola found growing in Swiss port area, Greenpeace, 31.05.12
  • Update on GMOs in China by Chinese journalist Yinghui Zhand-Carraro, 6.02.12

1 comment:

  1. Organic food is always better. After we all have the right to know what we are eating. Latest research has shown that the commonest modification in GM crops includes a "significant fragment of a viral gene" known as Gene VI. This is a new viral DNA in GMO foods which causes food contamination. Here I have found some shocking facts about GMO corn risks & problems with GMO foods.


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