Co-existence of genetically modified and conventional crops: roundtable on latest research results

April 7, 2003

Brussels, 4 April 2003

A roundtable meeting to examine the latest research results on the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops will be hosted by the European Commission on Thursday 24 April. A wide range of stakeholders, representing industry, NGOs, consumers and other players, will attend the meeting. The aim of the roundtable is to discuss the scientific basis for any agronomic and other measures that may be necessary to facilitate the sustainable co-existence of these different agricultural practices. Following this roundtable, the Commission will hold a public meeting to propose guidelines on how to address the issue of co-existence.

"Managing co-existence between different agricultural crops has been an issue for farmers for centuries", said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. " New genomics-based technologies offer increasing potential for improving crops in an environmentally friendly and consumer-oriented way. Europe should not overlook this opportunity. The round table offers a platform for scientists and representatives from farming and consumer organisations, NGOs and national administrations to discuss both the state of play of scientific knowledge and best practices for ensuring co-existence."

Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler added: "Co-existence is about ensuring that our farmers will have the chance to choose whether they want to produce conventionally, organically or using authorised GM-crops. The only way forward is a fully transparent discussion with all the interested parties, based on sound science. This is what this round table wants to achieve."

The conference

The roundtable will begin at 9.00 am at the European Commission's Borschette conference centre, Rue Froissard 36, in Brussels. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. This meeting is by invitation only but interested journalists are welcome to attend the conference following registration.

What is co-existence?

The cultivation of authorised GMOs in the EU will have an impact on agricultural production. In particular, it raises the question of how to manage the adventitious mixing of GM and non-GM crops (admixture), resulting from seed impurities, cross-pollination, volunteers (self-sown plants, mainly from harvest fall-out carried over to the next growing season), harvesting-storage practices and transport, as well as its possible economic consequences. The ability of the agricultural sector to deliver a high degree of consumer choice is linked to its ability to maintain different production systems.

The most cited example of income loss due to admixture is that of conventional and organic farmers who have to sell their crop at a lower price because of the adventitious presence of GM crops above the authorised threshold level. The opposite example is where a speciality GM crop could depreciate in value because of admixture with non-GM crops.

Research for sustainable co-existence

The EU Action Plan on "Life Sciences and Biotechnology: A Strategy for Europe" commits the Commission to "take the initiative to develop, in partnership with Member States, farmers and other private operators, research and pilot projects to clarify the need, and possible options, for agronomic and other measures to ensure the viability of conventional and organic farming and their sustainable co-existence with genetically modified crops."

Crop-specific analysis

To prepare the ground for the development of coexistence options the Commission's Joint Research Centre has participated in the work of collecting, assessing and expanding scientific evidence in this area. Research projects have also been funded under the EU framework programmes. A key finding of scientific research to date has been that co-existence must be addressed on a crop-specific basis. The extent of gene flow and the movement of materials (seeds, pollen, roots, crop residues, etc.) between crops are highly dependent on the biological characteristics of the crop in question, and on agricultural practices.

Among the GM-crops that are candidates for large-scale cultivation in the EU in the short term, the most problematic one in terms of co-existence is oilseed rape. Maize is the only GM crop that has been commercially grown in the EU and where practical experiences can be shared. The roundtable will, therefore, specifically address these two crops.

Developing practical measures

At the roundtable research scientists will present what is known about the extent and consequences of gene flow between GM and non-GM crops. These findings will be discussed with an audience of interested stakeholders in order to develop practical measures for farmers to facilitate co-existence. There will be presentations on proposals for practical measures and the experience of several Member States to date.

For further information about EU funded research on bio-safety of GM crops, including issues related to coexistence, please visit:

Please also visit:

Round Table on research results relating to co-existence of GM and non-GM crops

    Programme - 24 April 2003
    • 09:00
      • Opening remarks:European Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin
    • 09:15
      • Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler
    • 09:30
      • Setting the scene

      • Soren Mikkelsen, Denmark.

      • Willy de Greef, IBRS, Belgium.

      • Session I. Maize.

      • Chairman: Daniel Bloc, (AGPM) French Maize Producers - Co-operative, France.
  • 10:00
    • Panel members:

    • Antoine Messean, (CETIOM), France

    • Gene flow in maize

    • Esteban Alcalde, Syngenta, Spain.

    • Co-existence of GM maize in Spain.

    • Roberto Papa, University Ancona, Italy.

    • Maize landraces in Europe: a special case for co-existence.

    • Pierre Pagesse, Limagrain, (COPA-COGECA), France.

    • Hybrid seed production.

    • Bernadette Oehen, Angelika Hilbeck, Biogene, Switzerland.

    • Development and cost-assessment of measures to reduce gene flow.

    • Klaus Ammann, Botanic Garden, Berne, Switzerland.

    • The Eurocode system and new maize breeds avoiding gene flow.
  • 11:00 - 12:30
    • Discussion
  • 14:00
    • Session II. Oilseed rape.

    • Chairman: Alan Gray, (CEH/ACRE), UK.

    • Panel members:

    • Regine Barth, Öko-Institut Darmstadt, Germany.

    • Organic farming concerns.

    • Rikke Jorgensen (RISO), Denmark.

    • Outcrossing and gene flow on conventional and organic farms in Denmark.

    • Frédérique Angevin, (INRA), France.

    • Models of gene flow from OSR

    • Jeremy Sweet, (NIAB), UK.

    • Outcrossing and admixture in seed and crop production.

    • Ferdinand Schmitz, German Plant Breeders Association, (ESA), Bonn, Germany.

    • How to reduce gene flow.

    • Daniel Pearsall, (SCIMAC), UK.

    • How to segregate crops on the farm.

    • Per Henriksson, (Bayer Bioscience), Belgium.

    • Strategies for co-existence.
  • 15:30 - 17:00
    • Discussion on afternoon session
  • 17:15
    • Concluding discussions. Joachim Schiemann, Federal Biological Research Center for Agriculture and Forestry, Germany.
  • 18:00
    • Close 

      DN: IP/03/495 Date: 04/04/2003


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