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Research reports 20.12.2018

Are Teosinte and Feral Maize present in the Netherlands?

(CGM 2018-06)

As part of the European market approval process, the Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) assesses whether a genetically modified (GM) maize breeding line could pose an environmental hazard if imported or cultivated in the Netherlands. When assessing the risks GM maize poses to the environment, insights into the presence of maize and its interbreeding with wild variants are important. Based on the reported presence of ‘feral’ maize plants in Austria and of its relative teosinte in France and Spain, COGEM initiated investigations to determine whether feral maize and teosinte now occur in the Netherlands. This report provides up-to-date background information for use in assessment of possible GM maize risks. Although teosinte seeds are sold commercially in the Netherlands, no distribution  was found in nature or environment. The network consultation and distribution of information and the call to report teosinte yielded no reports of teosinte in maize cultivation areas, although the vast majority of maize experts and advisors in the Netherlands were reached and we did receive reports on lookalikes.It is widely claimed that maize as a species cannot form a self-sustaining population under (semi-) natural conditions, even not in southern Europe with mild winter conditions. Based on the data in this report, there is no indication that the current situation in the Netherlands is different, as there have been no reports at all of possible self-sustaining maize populations. This makes the risk of development of self-sustaining populations in the Netherlands in the near future very unlikely.