GM Free Cymru

Taxpayer foots bill for GM maize contamination fiasco

Press Notice 25 January 2006

It has been confirmed that the British taxpayer will meet the full cost of dealing with last year's GM maize contamination incident, with the company responsible (Syngenta) contributing not a penny (1). Furthermore, nobody within the Health Department or the Food Standards Agency has bothered to calculate what the full costs of the incident actually are.

This information is contained in a written answer from Caroline Flint MP (Minister for Public Health) following a PQ from Alan Simpson MP.

Syngenta was the company responsible for the large-scale Bt10 contamination incident in the spring of last year, which had repercussions across the globe and which cost European taxpayers millions of euros. Following the belated disclosure that up to 185,000 tonnes of contaminated and illegal GM maize had been sold into the world market, the EU and its member states were forced into a flurry of actions designed to prevent the contaminated maize from entering the food chain on this side of the Atlantic . It is still not known whether those actions were successful (2). Thus far, at least twelve contaminated cargoes have been stopped at Japanese ports, and two in Ireland . It is a fair assumption that other contaminated cargoes have been imported, without being identified, through ports in EC countries, and also in South Korea . Thousands of hours of UK civil service time were expended on dealing with the incident; advisory committees and Government ministers became involved; GM monitoring procedures had to be devised and implemented; and Port Authorities and local authorities were also required to test incoming shipments and to pay research laboratories for GM tests. As far as the UK is concerned, the cost certainly runs into millions of pounds.

Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "The kindest interpretation of that fiasco is that Syngenta is incompetent; but we now know that the corporation lied, tried to cover up the full extent of the contamination, and placed endless obstructions in the way of the authorities which had to deal with contaminated human and animal food. This would be entirely in character, for the corporation has acted in this way before (3). It is a disgrace that our Government has not only connived in covering up the true scale of this GM pollution, but has allowed Syngenta to get off scot free in spite of the chaos it has caused (4). That chaos may well include health effects which have not yet been identified."


Contact: Brian John
GM Free Cymru
Tel 01239-820470



(1) Alan Simpson MP: "To ask the Secretary of State what the gross cost has been to the
British taxpayer of the recent BT10 contamination incident, and what
proportion of that cost has been refunded by Syngenta." Caroline Flint MP replied: "The FSA has not estimated the total cost to public funds associated with the recent Bt10 contamination incident. No costs have been refunded by Syngenta."

(2) Although there have been no reported positive identifications of Bt10 in food or animal feed in the UK , GM Freeze has seen a leaked memo from FSA which indicates that some contaminated supplies HAVE been identified. Also, there are strong suspicions that the "test method" devised by Syngenta has been carefully fabricated so as to minimise the chances of obtaining positive test results.

(3) See for "The Syngenta Dodgy Dossier" -- this gives full details of the lies, deceptions and obstructive behaviour in the 2005 Bt10 incident and in previous incidents. See these:,2106,3227702a10,00.html

(4) Syngenta made an operational profit of $762 million in 2004, its last full reported year. Yet the UK Government has imposed no fine on the corporation for the Bt10 incident, and has not attempted to recover any of its incurred costs. There is no question that Bt10 is illegal, and that Syngenta has broken the law.