Will Amphibious Corn Taint Food Supply?
Disseminated by The Erie Wire
Contacts: Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety, 202-547-9359; Heath Fradkoff, Goodman Media, 212-576-2700
World’s First GE Biofuels Corn Threatens Contamination of Food-Grade Corn. Impacts on Human Health, Environment, and Farmers Not Assessed
Center Urges Rethink of “Food for Fuel” Policy
Washington, D.C. (January 15, 2009) – The Center for Food Safety today urged the incoming U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to refrain from approving the world’s first genetically engineered (GE) crop designed specifically for fuel, not food. The Center maintains that this GE “biofuels corn” will contaminate food-grade corn, and has not been properly assessed for potential adverse effects on human health, the environment, or farmers’ livelihoods. The Center also believes it is irresponsible to engineer corn for fuel use at a time when massive diversion of corn to ethanol has played a significant role in raising food prices and thus exacerbating world hunger.
The USDA is accepting public comments on its cursory impacts assessment of the corn until January 20th. The Obama Administration’s USDA could then approve the corn or postpone any final decision until a proper, comprehensive assessment is prepared. In the latter case, the corn could continue to be grown under USDA regulatory oversight, as at present.
The GE corn at issue – known as Event 3272 – is genetically engineered to contain high levels of a heat-resistant and acid-tolerant enzyme derived from exotic, marine microorganisms. This enzyme has not been adequately assessed for its potential to cause allergies, a key concern with new biotech crops, and could also have negative impacts on soil carbon cycling. The corn-embedded enzyme breaks down starches into sugars, the first step in conversion of corn to ethanol. At present, ethanol plants add a different and familiar version of this enzyme to accomplish the same purpose. The corn was developed by Syngenta, the Swiss-based agrichemical and biotechnology firm.
“The Bush Administration’s USDA rushed this GE corn to the brink of approval without giving any serious consideration to its potential impacts on human health, the environment, or the economy,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety. “Syngenta’s biofuels corn will inevitably contaminate food-grade corn, and likely trigger substantial rejection in our corn export markets, hurting farmers. We urge the Obama Administration to give this first-ever GE industrial crop a careful and thorough assessment before making a final decision.”