To the Editor:
Mounting losses due to contamination of this year's corn harvest are putting intense political pressure on federal regulators. Food company lobbyists are asking them to now declare acceptable genetically engineered corn currently unapproved for human consumption. Regulators plan to review new data submitted by Aventis Crop Science, the source of the adulterated corn (newspaper name [typically that carried the Oct. 22 or 23 AP Wire story], date).
Wait a minute. Before concluding the corn is safe based on data hardly from an independent source, regulators should investigate existing reports of illnesses thought to be caused by consumption of the unapproved corn.
The Environmental Protection Agency should also test for allergic reactions to toxins produced by engineered corn as urged by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, on Oct. 20th. The EPA has had the ability to run such tests for over a year but has not taken action.
Aventis claims that the bacterial toxin engineered into its Starlink brand is present at levels much lower than most allergens. Yet a member of the EPA's Scientific Advisory Panel has noted that for some people, even trace amounts or the smell of an allergen like peanuts is enough to put them into shock.
Some say no big deal - people allergic to peanuts can take precautions to avoid them. But peanuts in food are labeled; genetically engineered corn is not. As long as the government cannot prove that the corn is free of allergens and as long as genetically engineered foods remain unlabeled, we will never know whether our corn flakes, taco shells, or enchiladas are safe to eat.
Director, Health and Environment Programs
Friends of the Earth