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Contaminated crops

June 7, 2010

A Greenpeace report says seven German states have had seed supplies contaminated by genetically modified corn. Losses for farmers could be in the millions of euros.

Genetically modified corn growing in a field
Greenpeace says the corn must be destroyedImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Despite a Europe-wide ban, genetically modified corn has contaminated crops in seven German states, according to research from the environmental organization Greenpeace.

The seeds were supplied by the firm Pioneer Hi-Bred, based in the town of Buxtehude outside Hamburg, in Lower Saxony. The state's agriculture ministry confirmed the research on Sunday.

According to Lower Saxony's environment ministry, the contaminated seeds, making up about 0.1 percent of the total seed supply, were sown over at least 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.

"This is, to date, the largest scandal concerning genetically modified seeds in Germany," said Alexander Hissting, an agriculture expert with Greenpeace.

Lower Saxony missed deadline

A farmer fills up his corn storage on the fields at Bad Krozingen near Freiburg, southwestern Germany
Farmers could suffer millions of euros in lossesImage: AP

According to Greenpeace, the Agriculture Ministry discovered the contamination at the beginning of March, but did not pass on the information to the Environment Ministry until the end of April. The Environment Ministry is responsible for informing farmers of any potential contamination.

The states had agreed to make public all data related to any genetically modified seeds by the end of March to prevent such an outcome, a deadline which Lower Saxony failed to meet.

Gert Hahne, a spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry, said the delay was only two or three weeks and was not done on purpose. "The suppliers, not us, are responsible for the seed control," he said.

An additional month went by before the supplier agreed to give the state access to its customer information. It wasn't until last week, following a court ruling, that the firm released the list of dealers that had received the contaminated seeds.

Greenpeace says the corn already growing in the fields must now be destroyed, which could lead to millions of euros in losses for farmers. According to the organization's research, blood tests in animals have shown genetically modified corn to have a significant effect to the liver and kidneys.

"Putting the consumer at risk is not up for discussion," said Hissting.

Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Nancy Isenson