Unauthorised release of GM event NK603 in conventional maize seed

Date released: Jul 22 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the Competent Authority for Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In the event of a release of GMO(s), for which no EU authorisation was given, it is the duty of the Competent Authority to ensure that the necessary measures are taken to terminate the release and to initiate remedial action, if necessary.

On 3rd June 2010, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) informed the EPA of the unauthorised release of GM (genetically modified) event NK603 in conventional maize variety PR39T83. This release was subsequently confirmed by DAFF on 19th July 2010. The maize variety was supplied by Pioneer Hi-Bred Northern Europe and was in the process of being evaluated for cultivation and use under Irish farming conditions in DAFF small scale field trials.

A certificate of analysis provided by Pioneer indicated that the maize variety was GM free. However, results from random testing carried out by DAFF, indicated that maize variety PR39T83 contained the unapproved GM event NK603 at a very low level of 0.3% (i.e. three plants in every thousand plants are GM).

NK603 maize carries a herbicide tolerant trait and is approved for use in animal feed in the EU but it is not approved for cultivation. The European Food Safety Authority issued a positive opinion for the cultivation of NK603 maize in June 2009, but until such time as it is approved at EU level, there is zero tolerance for this GM event for cultivation purposes.

DAFF decided to discontinue testing this variety and subsequently removed the plants from the trial. At the time of removal from the trial, the plants were at the vegetative stage only, meaning no pollen or seed had formed. The plant material will be allowed to decompose by composting which will ensure there will be no further propagation.

In accordance with EU legislation, the European Commission and the Competent Authorities of the EU Member States (under Directive 2001/18/EC) have been informed of this unauthorised release.


Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)