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US Govmt is Planning to Approve Contamination of the World’s Food Supply with GE Crops

Excellent report by Friends of the Earth on the 'Regulatory' policies of the US government concerning genetically engineered crops.
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How the US Government is Planning to Approve Contamination of the World's Food Supply with Experimental GM Crops

Friends of The Earth Briefing Paper November 2004
To read the full briefing paper click this link:
www.foei.org/publications

Overview

Over the past two decades, the United States government has done everything possible to promote its biotechnology industry and push genetically modified (GM) foods on the rest of the world. As part of these efforts, in 2002 the Bush Administration issued a directive that would make contamination of the food supply with unapproved, experimental GM crops "acceptable."

This directive is now in the process of being implemented by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Though presented as a food safety measure, the true intent of the policy is to defuse concern over experimental GM traits that escape test plots and contaminate the food and seed supply.

Biotech and food processing companies believe this policy will free them from legal liability for such contamination in the US, and they are already urging the Bush Administration to push the rest of the world to adopt similar policies. In a related move, the head of the FDA recently announced that the agency is considering plans to approve contamination of food crops with drug residues from pharmaceutical producing crops. Thus, experimental genetic material and pharmaceuticals could enter the world's food and seed supplies from the US, with unknown health and environmental consequences.

Experimental GM Crops: From Lab to Field

All GM crops begin life in the laboratory. Scientists use a "gene gun" or an infectious
bacterium to introduce foreign genes encoding the desired trait(s) into clumps of plant cells. Because genetic modification is a random, hit-or-miss process that scrambles plant DNA,1 most of these lab experiments are failures. GM plants grown from these modified plant cells often have obvious deformities and are weeded out. But those with more subtle problems are frequently missed, and can end up in the fields for outdoor testing, or even be approved for commercial use.2

Field tests can be fractions to several thousands of hectares, and commonly go on for 5 to 10 years. These field tests thus offer ample opportunity for experimental GM pollen and seeds to contaminate normal crops.

Contamination from Experimental GM Crops

The growing list of GM contamination incidents shows that this is more than a theoretical concern.
To give just a few of many examples (see Appendix 1 for more):

· In 2000, nearly 25,000 acres of European rapeseed (canola) and maize were
discovered to be contaminated with unapproved GM varieties.

· In 2001, a food aid shipment to Bolivia that originated in the US was found to contain
GM corn, despite the country's moratorium on GMOs. In 2002, Bolivians discovered
unapproved StarLink in another US food aid shipment. When informed about the
StarLink contamination, US authorities did nothing. 1

· In 2002, GM pharmaceutical maize produced by ProdiGene, Inc. contaminated maize
and soybean fields in Iowa and Nebraska. As a result, 155 acres of maize and $3
million worth of soybeans had to be destroyed.

Contamination with pharmaceuticals from GM crops was reported as early as the year 2000 by Chris Webster of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, who stated:

"We've seen it on the vaccine side where modified live seeds have wandered off
and have appeared in other products."3

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