Fifteen Belgian colza fields, owned by Bayer CropScience, have been contaminated by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) banned in Europe, the country's public health ministry announced Tuesday.
The Bayer subsidiary, which specialises in improving crop yields, informed the Belgian authorities of the contamination, which happened last month during the planting of normal colza -- a crop similar to rapeseed and used in cattlefeed, cooking oil, machinery lubricant and, increasingly, as a biofuel.
"The conventional seed lot was contaminated by five percent GMO colza," the statement said.
A preliminary investigation carried out by the multinational put the problem down to "human error."
Bayer "has taken measures to prevent the spread of non-authorised GMOs" including the uprooting and destruction of the young crop, which had not yet flowered or produced grain.
The fields will be monitored for several years for signs of any genetically modified plants.
The ministry said it would inform the European Commission and EU member states of the matter and the remedial measures taken.