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Critics Say All Bt Crops May Cause Human Health Problems

Critics Say All Bt Crops May Cause
Human Health Problems

United Press International
September 21, 2001

Friends of the Earth Seeks to Stall Biotech Crops

By MARCELLA S. KREITER

An environmental group Friday urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
not to automatically re-approve five kinds of genetically engineered crops.
Friends of the Earth said the varieties made by Monsanto and Syngenta have
some of the same characteristics as StarLink, the biotech crop believed to
present a human health hazard.

In July, an EPA panel found the anti-pest protein found in StarLink, Cry9C,
is a human allergen that is not destroyed in the cooking process, adding
that there was insufficient data to determine a safe level of consumption.
StarLink, produced by Aventis CropScience, was the only genetically
engineered food crop that was not approved for both human and animal
consumption. Despite restrictions on its registration, StarLink found its
way into the human food chain because some farmers and grain elevator
operators say they never were told to keep it segregated from other crops.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, FOE Health and
Environmental Programs Director Larry Bohlen said the EPA has "no reasonable
scientific basis to allow ... the human consumption of any variety of corn
or potatoes genetically engineered with bacterial toxins derived from
Bacillus thuringiensis."

The bacterium is a natural insecticide and is inserted into crop DNA to make
the crops insect resistant. FOE is attempting to block re-registration of
the crops by the EPA. The group contends the crops initially got the
go-ahead without a full human health assessment.

"The EPA is supposed to base its reassessment on 'the most current health
and ecological data,' incorporating 'all available scientific information on
Bt products,' in particular the recommendations of its scientific advisory
panels and the National Academy of Sciences report on pest-protected
plants," Bohlen wrote. "As detailed in our submission to the EPA, the agency
has failed to do this."

Bohlen said the toxins produced by Bt corn either have characteristics that
make them possible human allergens or have never been assessed for such
characteristics. He said the data collected on potatoes and cotton also is
lacking.

"Of greatest concern are data showing that the bacterial toxin engineered
into Monsanto's Yieldgard corn and Syngenta's Bt11 corn is resistant to
digestion and heat, similar to the toxin engineered into StarLink corn,"
Bohlen wrote. "Corn containing the Cry1F protein registered to
Mycogen/Pioneer may also exhibit digestive and heat stability. "StarLink was
not approved for human consumption because it had 'characteristics of known
allergens' ..."

Bohlen also called for the labeling of products made with genetically
engineered crops to allow consumers to decide whether to expose themselves
to the possible allergy risk.

"We urge you to delay the re-registration of Bt crops currently under
consideration unless complete and adequate studies on potential health
impacts, as noted above, are submitted by the biotechnology industry or are
conducted," he said. "The health of the American people, confidence in the
food supply and the vitality of our farm economy depend on it." The EPA had
no immediate comment.

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