BASF blames human error for GM crop contamination in Sweden
Sep. 9, 2010
Brussels - German biotech giant BASF on Wednesday told European Commission officials in Brussels that "human error" was likely to blame for the planting of a not-yet authorized variety of genetically modified (GM) potatoes in Sweden.
The environmental lobby group Greenpeace had publicised the discovery of the GM potato fields, where the "illegal" Amadea-type seed had been mixed with the European Union-approved Amflora-type seed. The fields are managed by a BASF subsidiary.
BASF told the EU officials that a "human error" in the propagation process had been identified as "the most plausible cause of contamination," commission spokesman Frederic Vincent said in a statement.
The commission nevertheless plans to dispatch a team of experts to BASF next week to assess the companys quality-control mechanisms and determine the magnitude of the GM contamination.
Wednesdays meetings was also attended by representatives from Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic - the three countries were Amflora seeds are grown.
No GM contamination has been found in the German fields. The Amflora crop there will be stored, so samples can be taken, a spokeswoman for the BASF subsidiary Plant Science said on Wednesday.
All Amflora seeds have been removed from the contaminated field in Sweden. BASF inspectors had quickly spotted them because of their white blossoms - Amflora seeds generate purple blossoms.
Amflora potatoes are designed for use in the production of paper and glue, and are not meant for consumption.
GM crops are one of the most controversial issues within the EU. The EU executive had authorised the cultivation of the Amflora potato in March, ending the blocs de facto 12-year freeze on GM crop. But in April, it followed up with a proposal to leave future decisions in the hands of member states.
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