by Sean Poulter – Daily Mail, 5 March 2015
- New evidence shows spread of GM pollen cloud is enormous
- Shows commercial farming of GM maize would contaminate vast areas
- European Food Safety Authority reviewing approval process for the corn
- Eco campaign group Friends of the Earth is calling for it to be banned
‘Toxic’ pollen from GM corn can travel miles to contaminate the countryside, researchers claim.
Currently, European Union regulators assume pollen from the crop, which has been manipulated to include a toxin that kills pests, can travel only 20 to 40 metres.
However, research suggests that significant amounts of the pollen, which harms butterflies and moths, can be carried up to 4.45 kilometres – 2.7 miles – on the wind.
Critics say that if this is correct the rules must be redrawn to protect the countryside and stop the pollen contaminating conventional and organic farms and food over vast areas.
The European Food Safety Authority is now reviewing the approval process for the corn – known as Bt maize – following the German study.
Its investigation is particularly important because the European Commission is in the final throes of approving a type of GM maize that was assessed under a safety regime that did not take account of the new information.
The researchers measured the spread of pollen from maize crops over ten years at hundreds of sites in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
They discovered that assumptions that maize pollen is heavy and falls to the ground over a short distance from the plants were spectacularly wrong. The research found the concentration ranged from 23.3million grains of pollen per square metre close to the fields to 2,857 grains at greater distances. Significant amounts of pollen were found more than 2½ miles away.
Previous assumptions on pollen dispersal were based on the premise that the air was still, but the German researchers pointed out that these conditions are ‘practically non-existent’ in the real world. They said some studies suggest that the pollen can be lifted high in the air by strong winds and carried for more than 40 miles.
The experts, whose research was published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, said even small amounts of pollen containing the toxin – as little as four grains – will harm or kill sensitive butterflies and moths.
They concluded that measures would be needed to ensure any GM maize crops are more than half a mile away from sensitive areas of countryside which are home to important populations of butterflies and moths.
Mute Schimpf, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: ‘The only logical and scientific conclusion is to halt the cultivation of all GM maize in Europe.’
Last month, MPs on the science and technology select committee said the term ‘GM food’ should be abandoned because it had become a ‘lightning rod’ for fears about designer crops.
Anti-GM groups accused MPs of trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.