September 24, 2010 / 2:58 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-BASF admits mistake in Swedish GMO potato sowings

* Approved and non-approved GMO potatoes cultivated together

* BASF will separate test and commercial plantings

* German, Czech GMO potato plantings unaffected

(Adds EU Commission comment, paras 13-17)

HAMBURG, Sept 24 (Reuters) - German chemicals group BASF BASF.DE on Friday said it had made a mistake in cultivating a type of potato with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in Sweden, which do not have European Union approval.

On Sept. 6 European Union authorities asked BASF to explain how unapproved GMO potatoes of a new variety called new Amadea, undergoing research cultivation, were found growing in Sweden in a field of Amflora potatoes -- a GMO potato that was approved for commercial production in the EU in March. [ID:nLDE6851R4]

“The mix-up occurred because Amadea and Amflora plants were in close proximity to each other at our facilities,” Peter Eckes, president of BASF Plant Science in a statement.

“We regret this very much. To prevent such mistakes in the future, we will ensure complete separation of the production systems for Amadea and Amflora.”

An analysis had identified the temporary cultivation of Amadea and Amflora plants in the same physical space in the early seed propagation stage as the cause for the intermingling, BASF said.

BASF said it will discard the harvests from all the affected potato fields in northern Sweden, which involves about 16 hectares.

A BASF spokeswoman added that human error was the reason for the intermingling.

GMO seeds will in future also undergo molecular analysis at an early stage before initial plantings, the BASF statement said.

“The Amflora potatoes being cultivated in fields in Germany and the Czech Republic came from different seed lots which have always been cultivated separately from Amadea seed lots,” it said.

It added: “There is no indication of the presence of Amadea potatoes in these seed lots. Subject to the decisions of the national authorities, the harvest from the Czech Republic is planned to be used for starch extraction whereas the harvest from Germany is intended for seed production.”

Amflora is not used for human food.

The EU Commission wanted to evaluate additional information before making a decision on the use of the remaining seed lots in Sweden, the statement said.

BASF Plant Science said it had already provided the requested information.

A European Commission spokesman said on Friday the origin of the contamination was “clearly human error.”

The EU Commission was in favour of destroying the 15 hectares of potatoes involved, he said.

“This decision needs to be taken by the Swedish authorities,” he said. “It is the responsibility and competence in the area of management of territory and what grows on your territory lies with the member state, so Sweden must take the decision to destroy these crops from the 15 hectares, and Sweden will be taking a decision in the coming weeks.”

There was also concern about other batches of GMO potatoes, which are also in Sweden, he said.

“Again the Swedish authorities are competent and we would like them to continue their enquiries on this issue,” the spokesman added.

(Reporting by Michael Hogan, additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore in Brussels; Editing by Alison Birrane)

((michael.j.hogan@thomsonreuters.com Reuters messaging: michael.hogan.reuters.com@reuters.net +49 40 419 03 4275)) Keywords: GERMANY GMO/BASF

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