Monday, January 16, 2012
Greenhouse of GM barley damaged in storm
January 16, 2012
The Environment Agency of Iceland is investigating an incident where a greenhouse run by the plant nursery Barri on behalf of ORF Genetics, where genetically-modified barley is grown, was damaged in the storm in east Iceland on Tuesday night.
Biology professor Kesara Jónsson commented to ruv.is that it was lucky the greenhouse was damaged in the winter, otherwise the barley’s seeds could have spread beyond the nursery.
The Environment Agency has issued ten licenses to breed genetically-modified animals and plants in Iceland, including flies and mice. The cultivation of genetically-modified barley has been authorized in five locations in the country; one of which is in the open.
Kesara criticizes genetically-modified barley being grown in greenhouses that don’t withstand Icelandic weather conditions. “It is not all right. It opens the possibility of plants or seeds escaping.”
The Environment Agency considers this matter to be serious. The greenhouse was inspected before the license was issued and it was considered to withstand wind speed of as much as 42 meters per second.
However, in the storm on Tuesday night, squalls reached 47 meters per second.
“Naturally, this can happen. The main thing is that we react quickly and repair the damage, as has been done,” said divisional manager at the Environment Agency Sigrún Ágústsdóttir.
Some associations, including the NGO Landvernd (the Icelandic Environment Association), the Consumers’ Association of Iceland and organic certification agency Tún, have called for Barri’s license to grow genetically-modified barley to be revoked.
However, managing director of Barri Skúli Björnsson responded that the barley in question would not have survived outdoors.
Even so measures will be taken to prevent seeds from spreading in the wild; the greenhouse will be reinforced so that it can withstand squalls of as much as 55 meters per second, Skúli said.