Spread of genetically engineered plants out of control in many countries

Contamination of biodiversity becoming a huge burden for next generations

This report was realised with support by Gregor Louisoder Umweltstiftung

The first genetically engineered plants were created in 1983 and have been grown commercially since 1996. Meanwhile, early warnings from many experts have become reality. There is now uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered plants such as maize, rice, cotton, oilseed rape, bentgrass and poplar trees. The countries and regions where this is happening include the USA and Canada, Middle America, Japan, China, Australia and Europe. In many cases, the plants have escaped far beyond the fields into the environment. In some regions, the transgenes have already moved into populations of wild relatives.

The Testbiotech documentation is the first to provide a global overview of relevant cases. It shows how biodiversity and future seeds can be contaminated and become problematic for many generations to come. In future, hazards might be minimised but it will be impossible to withdraw the transgenic plants from the environment.

There are various reasons for transgene escape. Apart from commercial cultivation and experimental field trials, losses from the import and transport of viable grains for food and feed production are a source of uncontrolled dispersal. The consequences cannot be reliably predicted and from the cases documented in the overview it is evident that no prediction can be made on how these plants will behave in the long-term or interact with biodiversity.

In the light of these findings, Testbiotech is calling for clear regulations to ensure that the release of genetically engineered organisms is prohibited unless they can be removed from the environment if required.

Testbiotech has published several studies on the uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms or artificial life created by synthetic biology: