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First results of investigations on GM petunias:

Germany: 'Three out of five tested product lines are genetically modified'

In three out of the five tested product lines, genetic engineering changes were found. This is reported by the German Ministry of Environment who published the first results of investigations on genetically modified petunias. The samples used originate from a company in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and were examined by the Chemischen und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt Rhein-Ruhr-Wupper Rhein-Ruhr-Wupper (CVUA-RRW) in Krefeld, Germany. The Ministry of Environment decided to destruct the product lines (Pegasus Orange Morn, Pegasus Orange, and Pegasus Table Orange) of this company in NRW, when put on the market. Further samples, which were taken at several other company locations in NRW in the last days, are still under investigation. Results are expected to be in by next week.


The end of April, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira announced to prohibit any further sale of the concerning varieties in Finland. In Evira's analyses, one lot of petunia seeds (African Sunset) as well as eight petunia varieties that had already been planted were found to be genetically modified. Selling GM plants within the European member states is not allowed.

Also in the UK, the GM petunias create unrest as it is, according to an article in the Telegraph, one of the most popular bedding plants in Britain. Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) confirmed the GM plants and seeds have been found in the UK and that ‘every effort’ is being made to trace them, reports the Daily Mail. The HTA foresees that the news about GM petunias will raise questions among the customers of their members, so, they proved some facts for staff to help handle any queries. One important fact that was listed by the HTA is that the orange-coloured petunias are no threat to people, animals or the environment.

Liz O’Neill, Director of GM Freeze, a campaign sharing the public's deep concern about the speed at which genetic modification is being introduced into food and farming, commented on the news that unauthorised GM petunias have been found for sale in the UK: “Regardless of whether or not these particular GM plants pose an immediate threat to people, animals or the environment, they have spread across the UK market unlabelled and unnoticed. That shows a horrifying disregard for regulation which needs to be thoroughly investigated. DNA is not lego and GM controls are not an optional extra, whether you are growing food, flowers or anything else. Altering the genome can cause all sorts of unexpected effects so GM plants are not allowed onto the market without proper testing. Even then they must be labelled because consumers have a right to choose GM-free.”

Syngenta, responsible for some of the suspect plants, told the Daily Mail that they advised their customers to destroy them. "It suggested any genetic modification was accidental, and said preliminary tests show its varieties were produced by ‘conventional breeding’."

Michael Smith, of WD Smith nurseries in Essex told the Telegraph: “It's disappointing that it's happened. “The industry needs to deal with this internally now and get it sorted out before it becomes a bigger mess. But I don’t think the public should be concerned."

Dutch association for the plant reproduction material sector Plantum reports that the supply of orange petunias by Dutch breeders has been halted. "The possible genetic modification EVIRA found could signify insertion of a gene from corn, and may have a link with the orange color. DNA sequences that indicate the presence of this gene or genetic modification have not been found in all tested varieties of orange petunia. The breeders are now examining whether the used testing method is reliable, and if the findings can be confirmed by Dutch authorities. The origin of a possible contamination is also being looked into, as well as the way in which it may have ended up in breeding programs. Because the report specifically refers to a part of the orange petunias, the extent of the possible presence appears to be very limited. Further research is currently being carried out. As a precaution, breeders and propagators are currently not supplying materials of the suspected varieties, and the buyers to which these varieties have been sent are currently being checked out. The buyers will be personally informed by these companies, in order that suitable measures can be taken."



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