South Korea doesn’t grow genetically engineered crops but like Switzerland last year it is finding GM plants growing wild throughout the country.
The National Institute of Environmental Research (NIER) collected 626 samples of four main genetically engineered crops; maize, rapeseed, cotton and soya bean.
Analysis revealed genetically engineered DNA in samples from 19 regions including in 6 cities.
South Korea imports GM crops for animal feed and processing and so samples were collected from areas around major ports, factories livestock farms and road ways.
The most commonly found GM species were maize (corn), cotton and rapeseed.
Contamination on the rise
The NIER reported that there has been a 33% increase in the level of detected GMO contamination cases in the wider environment since 2009.
Most of the contamination is from seeds that had taken root after falling to the ground during storage or transportation.
Around farms the contamination was much more extensive with entire colonies of the plants becoming established.

Mounting risks from GMO contamination
The potential environmental damage of this contamination is a concern to the NIER.
The report highlighted changes in microorganisms in the soil: the negative impact of the GM insecticide gene (Bt) on non-target plant eating insects, cross contamination with native plants and contamination throughout the food chain.
“Because plants are not quarantined, they can reproduce with similar species, and it is possible that the modified DNA could move to other plants,” said Lee Byeong-yun, manager of plant resources at the National Institute of Biological Resources.
“If this happens, it could create a number of undesirable situations. It might prevent these species’ natural DNA from being expressed.”
Seo Jae-hwa, a researcher on the Biosafety Research Team at NIER highlighted that; “There is a possibility that the pest-resistant and herbicide-resistant genes in the GMOs could accidentally enter plants they were not intended for through handlers’ carelessness.”
The human error was inventing the seeds, not handling them.
But blaming handlers for the contamination is pointing the finger in the wrong direction.
As recent experience in Oregon, Switzerland, Western Australia and other regions has shown GMOs cannot be contained either in the field, or in the food chain and certainly not within research trials.
Until a solution to prevent contamination is found the answer is to stop transporting these genetically engineered crops across the world; stop feeding them to animals; and even to stop growing them.
In the light of these ongoing contamination problems, the UK’s push for GM crops looks ill considered and irresponsible.