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Finger Points at Canada in Europe's Canola Crisis
Farmers Caught in Middle of a Pollination Problem

(22 May - Cropchoice News) The crisis in Europe over unapproved GMO canola is leaving farmers caught in the middle of a biotech battle. The problem started last week when it was revealed that Advanta had accidentally sold canola seed contaminated with GMOs in Sweden, France, Germany, and the UK. The contamination, put at between 0.4% and 2.6% depending on the seed lot and country, has caused concern among European governments and public. Advanta, partially-owned by AstraZeneca, is a European seed company best known in the US for its Garst seed brand.

European farmers are caught in the middle. In the UK, about 600 farmers have planted the impacted varieties. Interviewed by the Daily Telegraph, one British farmer said "If the Government had told us sooner we might have been able to do something about it... If they want to destroy these crops - and so far they say they won't - they will have to act quickly because I expect my oilseed rape to come into flower by the middle of next week."

Sweden is considering ripping up the canola, which contains a Roundup Ready gene, while the other governments are investigating, considering their options. In the UK, many are angry at the British government, which found out about the issue on April 17; but didn't reveal it to the public until May 12.

According to investigations by the Swedish Board on Agriculture, the source of the mixed up variety is Winnipeg-based Advanta Canada. Advanta is accused of not being vigilant about crosspollination in its seed production process.

How the current crisis is resolved by European governments may indicate the way Europe will react to any similar problems in the future. Many activists are calling for the crops to be pulled up and compensation paid to farmers. European governments say the canola isn't a major concern for human health; but rather one of the integrity and consumer information. According to the French Agriculure minister, "The real problem this raises is one of transparency, of traceability and consumer information."

First the fate of the crops will have to be decided; but then it may turn to legal wrangling. The British Ministry of Agriculure has denied reports it is considering a lawsuit against Advanta. The National Farmers Unions in Scotland and England say they are gathering legal advice for how their members can best deal with the situation.

SOURCES: Reuters, Daily Telegraph, Swedish Board on Agriculture, Agence France Presse