Wednesday, 3 October 2012

MOP6/COP11: In a major cause of biosafety concerns, a group of researchers has noticed unexpected and unwanted transgene out-crossing and spreading in native and indigenous crops

By syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 2: In a major cause of biosafety concerns, a group of
researchers has noticed unexpected and unwanted transgene out-crossing
and spreading in native and indigenous crops.

In their presentation on the sidelines of the ongoing Conference of
Parties (CoP-11) to the UN Convention of Biological Diversity here,
scientists from the USA, New Zealand and Mexico, pointed out that the
Bt genes from the genetically modified crops had made their way into
native crops. The mixing of Bt or transgenic material with ordinary
crops leads to genetic pollution and raises food and biological safety
concerns.

Prof Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Prof
Cynthis L Sagers of the University of Arkansas, USA, and Dr Ana Wegier
of the National Institute for Research in Agriculture, Forests and
Livestock, Mexico, presented their results on research with maize,
cotton and canola. They discussed the risk assessment and management
options at a CoP-11 side event organised by the European Network of
Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility.

“Indigenous organisations, conservationists and regulators have been
working on options to prevent such transgene spread. One example is
the ban of Bt cotton planting in regions of the USA where native and
wild cotton varieties are growing,” they said.

Gene flow between crops occurs in the nature, though it is
undesirable. But when transgenes are involved, they give novel traits
to ordinary plants. And this can spread to many other plants.

In another study, the Japan Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Food and
Agriculture has noted that the genetically modified canola is
spreading in Japan though it was never planted there. Wild-growing
genetically modified canola (rapeseed) plants have been found at many
locations around Japan on numerous occasions, even though GM crops are
not grown on a commercial scale in Japan.

It was spilled from trucks near the importing harbours along the coast
and GM pollution started to occur at many locations.

Meanwhile, the CBD admitted that lack of scientific knowledge to
assess the risk of GM crops is the major challenge for many countries.
“The status of implementation on biosafety is low. We hope the
countries will meet the target by 2020. There will be a mid-term
assessment during 2015,” said Charles Gbedemah, principal officer,
biosafety.

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