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In Context #11 (Spring, 2004, p.5); copyright 2004 by The Nature Institute

Widespread GM Contamination of Seed Supply

This past February the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a study demonstrating that DNA from genetically engineered crops is contaminating the American supply of conventional, non-engineered seeds.* UCS staff bought 50 pound bags of conventional soybean, corn, and canola seeds from seed retailers. They purchased six different varieties of each species, "representing a substantial portion of the 2002 traditional seed supply for these three crops" (p. 28). They then sent batches of these seeds to two different testing labs to determine whether there is any foreign DNA from genetically modified crops in the seeds.

The testers ground up thousands of seeds and then took a sample of the ground material, which they tested for the foreign genes using the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) method. At one lab foreign DNA sequences were detected in three of the six varieties of soybeans and corn (50 percent) and in all the varieties of canola (100 percent). In the other lab, foreign DNA was found in five of six varieties of all three crops (83 percent). The foreign DNA came both from herbicide-resistant GM plants as well as insecticide-producing GM plants and included DNA from varieties sold by the biotech companies Monsanto, Syn