Traces of a GM material known as Topas 19/2 were have been found in Victorian canola ready for export.
GM canola was approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator in Canberra sometime ago for commercial production in Australia. However, bans on GM food crops introduced by State Governments have prevented the legal commercial production of GM canola. GM canola is grown overseas including in Canada, the US and Argentina.
It is unclear how the Australian canola became contaminated.
Bayer has field trials of GM canola in Victoria. However, the Topas 19/2 is apparently not consistent with the GM material in the canola being grown in trials by Bayer in Australia at the moment – though was in trials grown prior to 1998.
While investigations continue, perhaps the more likely explanation is that the contamination is from an Australian breeding program. There are apparently a number of different companies that breed and sell canola seed in Australia – but not Bayer (because state governments have banned their GM product). Anyway these breeding program exchange material with overseas companies and it is possible that in an exchange of germplasm the impurity/the Topas 19/2 was introduced.
Topas 19/2 includes a gene from a soil bacteria that confers herbicide resistance. The same gene, known as the pat gene has been used as a marker in a wide range of research in a variety of crops around the world. The pat gene is a Bayer creation.
According to Greenpeace Campaigner Jeremy Tager, Bayer should take responsibility for the organism it created. Do you reckon we should get Jeremy’s Mum to take more responsibility for the campaigns he runs?
Bayer media release: http://www.bayercropscience.com.au/news/index.asp?id=20050714GMTraces3
Greenpeace media release: