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Low level impurities in imported wheat are a likely source of feral transgenic oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) in Switzerland

Abstract

In Switzerland, the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) and the use of its seeds for food and feed are not permitted. Nevertheless, the GM oilseed rape events GT73, MS8×RF3, MS8 and RF3 have recently been found in the Rhine port of Basel, Switzerland. The sources of GM oilseed rape seeds have been unknown. The main agricultural good being imported at the Rhine port of Basel is wheat and from 2010 to 2013, 19 % of all Swiss wheat imports originated from Canada. As over 90 % of all oilseed rape grown in Canada is GM, we hypothesised that imports of Canadian wheat may contain low level impurities of GM oilseed rape. Therefore, waste fraction samples gathered during the mechanical cleaning of Canadian wheat from two Swiss grain mills were analysed by separating oilseed rape seeds from waste fraction samples and testing DNA of pooled seeds for the presence of transgenes by real-time PCR. Furthermore, oilseed rape seeds from each grain mill were sown in a germination experiment, and seedling DNA was tested for the presence of transgenes by real-time PCR. GT73, MS8×RF3, MS8 and RF3 oilseed rape was detected among seed samples and seedlings of both grain mills. Based on this data, we projected a mean proportion of 0.005 % of oilseed rape in wheat imported from Canada. Besides Canadian wheat, the Rhine port of Basel does not import any other significant amounts of agricultural products from GM oilseed rape producing countries. We therefore conclude that Canadian wheat is the major source of unintended introduction of GM oilseed rape seeds into Switzerland.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) in Switzerland. We thank Jowa and Swissmill for their collaboration and the providing of samples. We are grateful to Dr. Fabienne Wichmann (State Laboratory Basel-City) for critical reading and helpful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Claudia Bagutti.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Schulze, J., Brodmann, P., Oehen, B. et al. Low level impurities in imported wheat are a likely source of feral transgenic oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) in Switzerland. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 16936–16942 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-4903-y

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Keywords

  • Oilseed rape
  • Brassica napus
  • Genetically modified plants
  • Admixture
  • Impurities
  • Durum wheat
  • Cereal grains
  • Seed spillage
  • Transport
  • Environmental monitoring