Environmental Group Calls on Government to Immediately Release Information on Unapproved Genetically Engineered Corn
Washington, D.C. — Friends of the Earth today called on the U.S. government to immediately release all records to the public about the newly discovered contamination of the food supply with an unapproved variety of genetically engineered corn. Hundreds of tons of the unapproved corn, known as Bt10, have entered the food and feed supply in the U.S. and overseas since 2001. Bt10 is the product of Syngenta, a Swiss biotechnology company, and is engineered to contain a bacterially-derived pesticidal toxin.
“Syngenta’s genetically engineered Bt10 corn has not been tested or approved for human consumption anywhere in the world,” said Bill Freese, research analyst with Friends of the Earth and an expert on Bt crops. “The government has known about this problem for months, but so far, neither the government nor Syngenta has revealed where this corn was planted or sold. The fact that this unapproved corn has circulated in the food supply for four years without the knowledge of U.S. regulators makes a complete mockery of any claim that federal agencies are adequately regulating biotech crops.”
The journal Nature, which broke this story Tuesday, reported that Syngenta notified the U.S. government of the contamination in late 2004, and that White House officials, federal regulators, and company officials have been meeting since then to decide what to do and how to handle public relations. The government had not released any information to the public prior to the Nature article.
“It is unconscionable that the federal government and Syngeta knew about the contamination without informing the public,” continued Freese. “Their failure to notify the public shows that they are more interested in public relations than public health. This scandal points to the need for a complete overhaul of the U.S. regulatory system.”
Syngenta claims that Bt10 is safe, yet the experimental corn has not undergone any formal regulatory review by federal officials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not registered Bt10’s plant-incorporated pesticide. Nor has the FDA assessed the whole corn for potential harm to human health from unintended effects of genetic engineering. It is well-known that the process of genetic engineering causes mutations in plants that can alter the plant’s makeup, for instance by triggering creation of harmful new compounds in the plant, or increasing the levels of native allergens or toxins.
In 2000, Friends of the Earth brought to light the contamination of hundreds of products with StarLink corn, another variety of genetically engineered corn not approved for human consumption, because of concerns that it could cause allergic reactions.Friends of the Earth continues to investigate this contamination debacle and will post additional information in the coming days to /camps/comm/safefood/gefood/index.html.