Defra says GM petunias still under investigation

After the HTA alerted Defra to the presence of genetically modified orange petunias in the UK last week, Defra said it does not yet have evidence that the banned plants are in the UK.

Finnish food standards authority Evira discovered the plants in late April, sparking an EU-wide investigation.

The HTA said on 5 May: "The HTA has alerted the UK authorities to their existence in the UK supply chain for these bedding plants.  Every effort is now being made to trace the plants so that they can be withdrawn from sale. We do not yet know how widespread they are in the UK supply chain. The production of genetically modified petunias is not authorised in the EU, and any plants and seed will be destroyed. The UK authorities will decide what action to take."

But Defra said on 8 May: "A cross-EU investigation is still ongoing. We don;t know whether they are in the Uk yet. We have not had evidence they are in the UK yet. We don't have the evidence to back it up."

Asked what action Defra will take on GM plants found and on importers, Defra said: "We will deal with that when we know the situation."

Defra confirmed that GM ornamentals are banned EU-wide.

Evira said: "Investigations are being made in other EU member states to identify the scale of the spread."

Finnish researchers believe that the new orange colour has been created through genetic manipulation.

Plants for Europe director Graham Spencer said: "GMOs are not allowed to be sold or traded within the EU. But I think it will start a wider debate about what is acceptable and whether the law should be changed."

WD Smith director and BPOA technical committee chairman Michael Smith said: "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."

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