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More on Syngenta's Dumping Non-Approved GE Corn on U.S. Consumers

From GM Report (UK)

March 23, 2005

1.GMO crop scandal - Did Syngenta's illegal corn come to Europe?
2.US probes sale of GM corn - Wired News

EXCERPTS:

"This is an industry out of control. For four years Syngenta failed to notice that they were selling farmers an unapproved genetically modified seed. How are consumers and farmers supposed to trust them to produce our food in the future? This case makes a complete mockery of the US regulatory system for GM crops. To make matters worse the US Government has known about this accident for months and together with Syngenta decided to keep it a secret until now. This is complete scandal." - Adrian Bebb, , Friends of the Earth Europe (item 1)

"It's a massive failure of the U.S. regulatory system. They didn't know about this until the end of 2004 and they only found out quite by chance. That tells you how poorly companies are monitoring the experiments they do... This is certainly going to be a big problem for the United States." - Sujatha Byravan, executive director of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a nonprofit biotechnology interest group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts (item 2)
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FRIENDS OF THE EARTH EUROPE

Press release for immediate release: Wednesday 23 March 2005

Contact : Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)

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GMO crop scandal - Did Syngenta's illegal corn come to Europe?
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Brussels, 23 March 2005 - Friends of the Earth has written to the European Commission asking for urgent reassurance that unapproved genetically modified (GM) corn has not been imported into Europe. The threat was highlighted as Swiss-based Syngenta admitted yesterday that they inadvertently sold hundreds of tonnes of the wrong GM corn to US farmers over the past four years.

According to Nature, who published a story on their website last night (22 March), Syngenta produced and sold several hundred tonnes of a corn containing an insecticide, called Bt10 between 2001 and 2004. The corn has not been approved for human consumption anywhere worldwide. According to the article, Syngenta and the US Government have been in discussions since last year over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public.

Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said:

"This is an industry out of control. For four years Syngenta failed to notice that they were selling farmers an unapproved genetically modified seed. How are consumers and farmers supposed to trust them to produce our food in the future? This case makes a complete mockery of the US regulatory system for GM crops. To make matters worse the US Government has known about this accident for months and together with Syngenta decided to keep it a secret until now. This is complete scandal."

"Friends of the Earth is seeking urgent assurances from the European Commission that this corn was not imported illegally into Europe. The public will be concerned that they may have been exposed to unapproved GM foods and will demand answers. The Commission should insist that the US withdraws all corn suspected of contamination."

Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile) http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050321/full/nature03570.html
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2.US probes sale of GM corn
Wired News, Mar. 23, 2005

One of the world's largest agrochemical companies distributed several hundred tons of an unapproved strain of genetically modified corn seed over the past four years, according to a report released Tuesday by the scientific journal Nature.

The experimental seed, called Bt 10, distributed primarily in the United States by Swiss firm Syngenta, is not believed to pose a safety risk to humans or the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, critics of genetically modified foods say the incident is a wake-up call to regulators who have not done enough to monitor the industry.

Syngenta claims the incident was the result of a mix-up between the experimental seed and a very similar, approved strain. The EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration have launched a joint investigation.

"Syngenta voluntarily reported its unintended production of (seed strain) Bt 10, and is cooperating with the investigation," said the EPA in a statement dated Monday. "The company has also taken steps to ensure no further amounts (of) Bt 10 enter the seed or food supply."

Syngenta notified regulators of the error in December 2004, according to Anne Burt, the company's director of corporate communications.

The company first learned of the problem when it updated its equipment to perform DNA tests on its seeds, according to a statement provided by Burt. Earlier protein-based tests could not distinguish between the experimental Bt 10 seed and the government-approved Bt 11 strain, because both produce the same proteins.

Both strains contain a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that makes them more resistant to insects than unmodified corn. (The Bt in the strains' names comes from the bacterium's name.)

The amount of Bt 10 corn planted in the United States is comparatively small, accounting for just 0.01 percent of the entire U.S. corn crop between 2001 and 2004, according to Burt. In addition, all current Bt 10 plantings and unused seeds have been destroyed or isolated for later destruction, she said.

Still, watchdog groups say they are shocked that such a mix-up could happen.

"It's a massive failure of the U.S. regulatory system," said Sujatha Byravan, executive director of the Council for Responsible Genetics, a nonprofit biotechnology interest group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "They didn't know about this until the end of 2004 and they only found out quite by chance. That tells you how poorly companies are monitoring the experiments they do."

The incident may have an effect beyond U.S. borders. A small portion of harvested Bt 10 corn may have been exported to the European Union and more than a dozen other countries, said Burt. The United States and the European Union are at odds over how closely to track the movements of genetically modified crops, with European regulators pushing for tighter controls.

"This is certainly going to be a big problem for the United States," said Byravan. "This shows a need for the measures to trace GM crops that the Europeans have been calling for."

The EPA said in its statement that the U.S. government is contacting "major trading partners to ensure they understand there are no food-safety or environmental concerns that could affect trade."

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This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the Ecological Farming Association www.eco-farm.org <http://www.eco-farm.org/
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