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Organic Consumers Association

Stop GMO Bt Corn Before It Kills Again!

  • Three Reasons to Never Eat Non-Organic Corn
    By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq., Political Director
    Organic Consumers Association, August 22, 2012
    Straight to the Source

TAKE ACTION! Stop Syngenta's New Insecticidal GMO Bt Corn! Many countries around the world have banned or rejected genetically modified "Bt" crops (engineered to produce their own insecticides by expressing toxins from the soil-dwelling bacteria bacillus thuringiensis or Bt) because of documented harm to people, animals and beneficial insects.

In the US, there are already 16 different GMO Bt varieties of corn approved for food and feed. Now, Syngenta is asking the US Department of Agriculture to approve another. The following information is missing from the USDA's Environmental Assessment of Syngenta's new GMO Bt corn. Independent safety studies to address these issues haven't been done, so we don't know what to expect from the new Bt corn.

Syngenta is hostile to consumer concerns about the safety of GMO foods. In fact, the company doesn't even think we should have a right to know if we're eating GMOs. Syngenta is the 11th-largest funder of the campaign against the California "Right to Know" November 2012 ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods. Syngenta has given $821,300 to block our right to know. This money would have been much better spent investigating the following:

1. Illnesses and Deaths Among People Exposed to Bt Corn Pollen


In 2003, 51 local residents of a small rural area in South Cotabato, a southern province in the island of Mindanao, southern Philippines, came to town to seek medication after being hit at the same time by several illnesses such as coughs, colds, fever, vomiting, abdominal pains, headaches and difficulty in breathing. The victims' age ranged from five months to 49 years.

Residents pointed to a nearby 1.75 hectare Bt-corn plantation which was then on its pollinating stage. Victims said they got sick after smelling a foul odor coming from the pollen of the crop, which was within 100 meters from their houses.

Blood samples of 38 individuals afflicted with different diseases in South Cotabato all contained IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies, specific serum IgG antibodies that show that the affected individuals had been exposed to the Bt toxin.

According to an ISIS report, many if not all of the villagers exposed to GM-maize pollen in 2003  remained ill three years later. Furthermore, there were five unexplained deaths in the village. In total, 96 people got sick. In addition, nine horses, four water buffalos, and 37 chickens died soon after feeding on Bt corn.

Dr. Terje Traavik, the scientist who conducted the analysis of the blood samples of the people who became sick when they were exposed to Bt corn pollen, explained the significance of his research, saying that, while the tests alone could not establish it, a cause-effect relationship between exposure to Bt corn pollen and the people's illnesses could not be ruled out. Further, he said the tests were enough to challenge the biotech industry's long-standing claims that engineered Bt toxins don't show up in pollen, that they don't provoke immune responses and that they are not allergenic.

Bt toxins are potent systemic and mucosal immunogens , with Cry1Ac inducing serum antibody levels higher than those induced by cholera toxin . Cry1Ab is toxic to human kidney cells, causing cell death at low doses.

A recent Canadian study found genetically engineered Bt toxins in the blood of over 80% of women and their unborn children.

2. Deaths and Illnesses Among Livestock Fed GMO Bt Crops

In 1996, Syngenta abruptly terminated a Bt corn feeding study after four cows died in two days. Syngenta kept the results of their US study secret and went on to conduct field tests in the EU.

A German farmer's dairy cattle suffered illnesses and deaths after being fed exclusively Syngenta's Bt 176 corn grown on his farm as part of authorized field tests from 1997 to 2002. Syngenta paid the farmer 40,000 euros in partial compensation for 5 dead cows, decreased milk yields, and vet costs.

Since 2005, shepherds and farmers in India have reported that their animals that have grazed on Bt cotton or have been fed Bt cotton seeds have fallen sick and in some instances have died.

3. Beneficial Insect Deaths and Illnesses Due to GMO Bt Crops

GMO Bt crops are lethal to beneficial insects, including ladybugs, butterflies and honeybees. SYN-05307-1 produces an insecticide designed to kill corn rootworm, and is likely to be especially toxic to other insects, especially ladybugs, that, like the rootworm, are also coleopterans.

Conclusion

Syngenta has a history of hiding the dangers associated with its Bt crops. The current deregulation process, which relies on companies that manufacture genetically engineered crops voluntarily submitting data from studies they conduct themselves, is never going to reveal the truth about GMOs.

Please write to the USDA and urge regulators not to approve Syngenta's new GMO Bt corn until independent research proves that it is not a threat to the health of people, livestock or beneficial insects.

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