throughout Europe, Monsanto’s GM corn found growing in Ireland
Government destroys its own field trials
• Pioneer Hi-Bred seeds contaminated by Monsanto’s NK603
• Call for investigation to determine extent of contamination
and GENEVA — The Irish Government has been accidentally growing GM
maize, despite its policy to ban field trials and commercial cultivation
of GM crops in the Republic.  The blunder is doubly embarrassing because
this GM maize is an illegal variety that is not allowed for cultivation
anywhere in the European Union.
discovery was made by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(DAFF) at four of its own field trial sites including the National Crop
Variety Testing Centre at Backweston in Co. Kildare, and at three other
undisclosed locations in Counties Kildare, Kilkenny, and Cork.
carried out the field trials with a supposedly Non-GM maize variety PR39T83
supplied by Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe, a subsidiary of DuPont, the
world’s second biggest seed company and sixth biggest agrochemicals
company. The purpose of the trials was to find out if this conventional
maize is “suitable for cultivation and use under Irish farming conditions”.
to a press release issued late yesterday by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) , routine tests by DAFF discovered that the Pioneer Hi-Bred
maize is contaminated by Monsanto’s patented GM “event”
NK603. The genetic modification forces the crop to survive heavy spraying
with glyphosate, part of the cocktail of toxic chemicals contained in Monsanto’s
controversial Roundup herbicide. 
of this GM maize is illegal the EU, although importation is allowed for
animal feed and human food. It is unclear when DAFF first discovered the
contamination. The EPA says it was only notified on 3 June – three
months after the same seeds were found to be contaminated in Germany, and
long after they were sown in Ireland. DAFF re-confirmed the contamination
on 19 July.
EPA says that Pioneer provided a “certificate of analysis” claiming
the maize was GM-free. But random tests by DAFF found that 3 out of every
1,000 plants were contaminated by the illegal GM maize variety. That’s
about 300 illegal GM crops per hectare. DAFF says it destroyed its fields
of contaminated maize plants before they reached the flowering stage, in
order to prevent pollen drift that would further contaminate neighbouring
conventional and organic farmers, whose crops would then also have to be
is the first time a GM crop has been grown – albeit accidentally –
in Ireland since protestors destroyed field trials of Monsanto’s patented
GM beets in 1998.
Economic threat to Irish farmers and food producers
unclear how much, if any, of the illegal GM maize seeds have been sold and
are now being cultivated by Irish farmers. This would cause large economic
losses, and would be an ironic blow for farmers who would lose their biggest
maize crop in history, thanks to this year’s unusually hot and sunny
by pollen drift and seed dispersal from GM maize has already contaminated
hundreds of conventional and organic farmers in Spain. 
Lack of due diligence and false certificates
Ireland spokesperson Michael O’Callaghan said:
Pioneer company has provided false GMfree certificates for its GM seeds
on at least two previous occasions. The first was in 2007 when we discovered
thousands of tonnes of Pioneer’s Herculex GM maize (which was then
illegal) entering the EU through Dublin port . The second scandal occurred
in March of this year, when Pioneer and other agribiotech corporations sold
23 different varieties of maize seeds contaminated by Monsanto’s illegal
NK603 to farmers who cultivated them on 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) in
seven states in Germany, where contaminated farmers had to destroy their
crops.  According to the German-based Foundation on Future Farming ,
the seed companies refused to accept liability and have not compensated
farmers for up to hundreds of millions of Euro in economic losses.
Department of Agriculture knew this and should therefore have exercised
due diligence by testing Pioneer’s maize seeds before the field trials
began. This is another example of the Government’s failure to implement
the GM free policy it first agreed three years ago in 2007 and again in
Call for investigation
O’Callaghan called on the Government to answer the following questions
so as to protect the ability of Irish farmers and food producers to retain
their share of the rapidly growing EU and US markets for GM-free meat and
dairy produce. 
Why did the Department of Agriculture (DAFF) trust the GM-free certification
provided by Pioneer Hi-Bred, even though it must have known that similar
assurances provided in Ireland in 2007 and in Germany in 2010 proved to
Why did DAFF not test the seeds before it planted them, in view of the fact
that the same contamination by Monsanto’s NK603 was discovered 3 months
ago in Germany, in early March?
When did DAFF make the discovery? Why did it wait until 3 June to notify
EPA? And why did EPA wait until 22 July to issue a press release?
Will the Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly require Pioneer Hi-Bred
to provide a list of its customers in the Republic and Northern Ireland,
publish the names of dealers that may have received the contaminated seeds,
and make this information publicly available to farmers?
Does the Government know if the illegal seeds have been sold and planted
by Irish farmers? If so, how many acres of maize will have to be destroyed?
Will the Government test all maize seed stocks and fields of maize crops
for GM contamination?
Who will pay the costs for testing, crop destruction, and related economic
losses? Will the Government apply the Polluter Pays principle and demand
reparation from Pioneer Hi-Bred, or will taxpayers and/or farmers end up
having to foot the bill?
Is this an isolated case? Will the Government now make a commitment to test
every shipment of imported seeds for GM contamination, or will it continue
business-as-usual with random tests?
1. In 2007 the Irish
Government said it would “seek to negotiate to declare the island
of Ireland as a GMO-free zone”, but there is no record of any such
negotiations having taken place. But as of June 2010, the Government had
not even begun to draft any related legislation. Ireland’s official
policy to ban GM crops is published on page 11 of the Renewed Programme
for Government, 10 October 2009: http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2009/Renewed_Programme_for_Government,_October_2009.pdf
2. Unauthorised release
of GM event NK603 in conventional maize seed, EPA press release, 22 June
3. Time and Dose-Dependent
Effects of Roundup on Human Embryonic and Placental Cells, Arch. Environ.
Contam. Toxicol. 53, 126–133 (2007) DOI: 10.1007/s00244-006-0154-8.
For more information
on Glyphosate and other toxic ingredients of Monanto’s RoundUp herbicide
4. Testimonies of Contamination,
Greenpeace, 15 October 2009. This report documents the socioeconomic and
human impacts of GM contamination, based on testimonials from farmers and
food producers who have been directly or indirectly harmed as a result of
contamination in Spain, the only EU Member State whose government allows
the commercial cultivation of GM maize. The testimonials depict the stark
reality of serious contamination of conventional and organic crops and the
food chain. Download report: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/testimonies-ofcontamination-15-10-09.pdf
5. A joint Greenpeace
/ GM-free Ireland investigation discovered thousand of tones of Pioneer’s
illegal Herculex GM maize from the USA entering the EU through Ireland in
2007. The shipment was accompanied by laboratory certificates from Eurofins
GeneScan Inc. which specifically claimed that the cargo contained no Herculex.
But subsequent tests commissioned from Genetic ID by Greenpeace and by the
Dutch Government proved contamination by the illegal GMO. The mistake triggered
a moratorium on transatlantic shipments of animal feed from the USA to Europe,
and hundreds of millions of dollars of losses for grain traders.
For related information
• Illegal GM maize
enters EU through Ireland, GM-free Ireland press release, 30 April 2007:
Genetically Modifed Food Scandal, GM-free Ireland press release, 23 May
6. These include five
seed varieties sold by Pioneer Hi-Bred and 18 by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow
AgroSciences and other agri-biotech companies. The contamination was discovered
by Lower Saxony’s Ministry of Agriculture at the beginning of March
2010. For details see:
• Banned GM maize
sown in Germany, BBC News, 7 June 2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/10254080.stm
modified corn contaminates crops in seven German states, Deutsche Welle,
7 June 2010: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5657053,00.htm
7. Foundation on Future
8. See GM-free Irish
label good for business: Added value, increased market share, better branding
and unique selling point: the most credible GM-free food brand in Europe.
GM-free Ireland Network press release, 17 November 2009: http://www.gmfreeireland.org/press/GMFI46.pdf
See also: GM-free production:
a unique selling point for Ireland – the food island. 47-page briefing
with GM-free market survey, 17 Nov. 2009 (1.2MB pdf). http://www.gmfreeireland.org/GMFI-briefing-3.pdf