GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Genetically modified plants are banned in Switzerland and the federal government, working with the cantons, keeps a close eye out for stray plants: 2013 turned up no evidence of mavericks. Plants that appeared on sites already identified as contaminated in 2012 were destroyed.
The Swiss Environmental Office established a programme in 2011 to survey sites – fields, but also mills and other post-crop areas that can show contamination – to safeguard conventional farmers’ crops as well as to preserve biodiversity. GM plants are a concern, but so are the seeds they drop and the possibility that they could pollinate conventional plants, says the SEO.
The risk remains small but it will stay this way only if farmers and authorities remain vigilant, argues the SEO.
The federal office worked with the Basel-City cantonal laboratory to test three border area sites considered at high risk for contamination, including oil mills and silos. No traces were found at these sites, but at the Kleinhünigen port new lines of genetically modified colza were discovered in an area already contaminated. The colza is a variety that is mainly planted overseas.
Two conventional colza plants were found on the same site with GM seeds. Seeds regular pass through the port and given the large number of colza fields in the air, this kind of contamination is inevitable, according to the SEO.