In 2006 we invited Percy Schmeiser to Poland to tell the extraordinary story of his battle with Monsanto in Canada.
As we drove through Southern Malopolska Percy kept pointing out the oilseed rape plants growing along the road-side when there was no rape in the surrounding fields.
Oil seed rape is one of the smallest seeds in the agricultural seed sector. It can easily escape. However, what is noteworthy is that the appearance of these rogue plants along railway tracks and motorways are not normal occurrences. In the case described above the Polish appearance and the UK appearance were in the same season.
Here in Poland there are stories of clandestine/illegal distribution of GM seeds – often arbitrary and non-confirmable. However, does anyone doubt the likelihood that corporations like Monsanto are not party to attempts to ensure the presence of GM material in countries that officially claim to be GMO free?
Imported genetically modified oilseed rape GT73 may be introduced into the wild due to seed spillage during importation and transportation operations
See a paper from the Austrian Health Ministry: Scientific arguments for an import ban of herbicide tolerant oilseed rape GT73 (Notification C/NL/98/11)
Relevant extracts follow:
Accidental spillage of herbicide tolerant oilseed rape GT73 is considered as a major risk and corresponding monitoring and emergency plans were required during the commenting phase of the notification of GT73 by several member states.
Nevertheless accidental spillage of GT73 oilseed rape has not been considered as relevant by the notifier and neither an adequate proposal for monitoring of accidental spillage nor emergency measures were proposed in the monitoring plan.
Feral oilseed rape patches can arise from seed spillage at harvest, transport by farm machinery or trucks, seeds in excavated soil used for constructional and horticultural activities, from the soil seed bank, animal dispersal or other unknown origin.
Because of their size and shape oilseed rape seeds are particularly prone to loss during harvest, transport and processing activities. Consequently, imported genetically modified oilseed rape GT73 may be introduced into the wild due to seed spillage during importation and transportation operations.
Accidental spillage of GT73 oilseed rape along roadsides, on field margins and in other disturbed habitats can be considered as highly likely. There is evidence that the main origin of feral oilseed rape patches along motorways is seed spillage from farm machinery and from lorries during transport to seed processing plants (CRAWLEY & BROWN 1995). Also more recent studies support the importance of incidental transport losses for feral oilseed rape populations growing on the verges of motorways. Feral oilseed rape densities were consistently and significantly higher over a ten year period on motorway verges leading to a processing plant than in the opposite way (CRAWLEY & BROWN 2004).
Similar results were reported by PIVARD et al. (2005) who found that the frequency of feral populations of oilseed rape along roads directed towards a silo cannot be explained by past land use only thus indicating seed shedding during transport. They estimated that about one third of a feral oilseed rape population is due to annual seed immigration, both from transport losses and from neighbouring fields.