What is known about the import, distribution and presence of GM oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in the Netherlands?

Research reports | 22.03.2021 | CGM 2020-02

Seed spillage as a consequence of the import, transport and processing of GM oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) can lead to subsequent establishment of feral transgenic plants in the Dutch environment. Previous research on the presence of GM oilseed rape along transport routes and at handling sites (i.e. oil mills) already showed the ability of GM B. napus to settle after seed spillage in Germany, Switzerland and Japan. After settlement, GM B. napus plants can cross with their wild relatives or other sexually compatible congeners like Brassica rapa L. which is a common plant species in the Netherlands. Repeated outcrossing between different GM B. napus events can result in the stacking of transgenes from which the effects are not yet known. Therefore, research on the presence and distribution of GM B. napus is a first step in assessing the possible adverse effects of seed spillage during transport.
Based on the available import data, it was difficult to estimate the current inflows of GM B. napus. The Dutch Customs do not make a distinction between B. napus and B. rapa and they currently do not register whether the shipment contains GM B. napus. Based on data on cultivation and export of GM crops in various countries and additional research, the researchers conclude that it is unlikely that large quantities of GM oilseed rape will be imported into the Netherlands. To investigate whether GM oilseed rape occurs in the Netherlands, a number of areas were visited where the risk of seed spillage was most likely. These included areas along major transport routes (railways, roads and rivers), transshipment areas (ports) and processing plants (oil presses). Leaf material has been collected for genetic analysis at sites where the species was found. In addition, leaves from other species of the Brassicaceae family (B. rapa and Sinapis arvensis) were sampled to detect possible accumulation of transgenes in nearby related plants. GM plants were not detected and the researchers conclude that there is no evidence for the presence of GM B. napus at the sampled oil presses and transport routes.

Download publication