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Europe considers threshold for genetic contamination

(May 9, 2001 -- Cropchoice news) -- A key European Union agricultural committee will decide in the coming months whether to recommend a formal threshold of .5 percent foreign genetic material in conventional seeds, according to an EU official from the Netherlands.

This news comes as Greenpeace announced that independent tests on three types of conventional corn seed in Austria found genes from Monsanto and Syngenta transgenic varieties that are not legal for planting in Europe. Earlier tests revealed similar problems in Germany.

Avoiding this is increasingly difficult, says Chris van Winden, representative for the Netherlands in the Standing Committee on Seeds and Propagation Material for Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry. This is especially true of efforts to contain the transgenic varieties that the EU has approved for planting and human consumption.

He suggests that an allowable level of genetic contamination differs little from the various grass seeds that farmers might find in a bag of wheat seed.

Greenpeace wants European authorities to establish a zero tolerance for approved transgenic varieties showing up in conventional seed.