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Scandal Over Syngenta's Illegal GE Corn Continues

GM WATCH daily March 24, 2005
Dr Brian John points out that while Syngenta says that "some hundreds of tonnes" of BT10 maize went into the food supply, they also say that over 4 years farmers planted 37,000 acres of the stuff. Average yields are apparently around 150 bushels per acre, which translates to about 5 tonnes per acre. And that translates to *185,000 tonnes* of unauthorised BT10 maize going into the food supply -- into corn oil, cornflakes, sweeteners, starch, many dairy products, and even medical products.

1.GM Maize imported into Europe had no US or EU approval
2.Recall Foods Contaminated by GM Corn

1.Press Notice from GM Free Cymru, 24 March 2005
Urgent and immediate release

GM Maize imported into Europe had no US or EU approval

In another twist to the biggest scandal ever to hit the GM multinationals, it has now been revealed that Syngenta's BT 10 (Punchstock A) maize has never been authorized for release in the USA, and never authorized for export (1). Neither has it received any approvals for growing or food use within Europe (2).

GM Free Cymru has discovered that the GM variety has been imported into Europe, probably for use in human food rather than in animal feed. And since these imports have been going on, undetected and undeclared, for more than four years, the corn is probably already on supermarket shelves. This has happened in spite of accumulating evidence that BT10 is unfit for human consumption:

** BT10 is virtually indistinguishable from BT11 sweetcorn, which was given EC approval for use in food (fresh or processed) in 2004 in spite of grave reservations and even protests from independent scientists and member states

** BT10 was clearly an "experimental GM variety" which never entered the US approvals process, probably because it was found to be defective or genetically unstable.

** The variety has never had its genetic "character" described in the literature, which means that even if the EU countries had effective import monitoring in place (which they do not) the GM testing laboratories would not know what they are supposed to look for.

** Syngenta has stated that the approved BT11 strain and the experimental BT10 strain produce the same proteins. This has not been demonstrated. This is a cause for considerable concern, because the BT toxins produced in these varieties are almost completely unknown and are untested for toxicity

** Belgian and French studies have shown that BT11 is an unstable transgenic line which is contaminated with BT176. This component contains antibiotic marker genes, and was linked with "unexplained" cattle deaths in Hesse, Germany, in 2001-2002 (4). It is reasonable to assume that BT10 is also unstable and contaminated with BT176.

** BT10 contains certain synthetic genes and proteins which are not easily broken down by stomach enzymes. In some cases, such proteins may survive in the gut for ten to twenty times as long as most "natural" proteins, and this may account for the lesions and other physiological abnormalities observed in animal feeding studies involving GM crops (5). There are concerns that allergic reactions may follow, and that some abnormalities may lead to cancerous growths (6).

Syngenta refuses to name the countries into which contaminated maize supplies have been exported, but it has admitted that 37,000 acres of BT10 crops were grown between 2000 and 2004 (7). That means that at least 185,000 tonnes of BT10 maize grain (not "several hundred tonnes" as claimed by Syngenta) that should have been condemned has entered the food chain in many different countries (8).

Following the revelations about the four-year-long contamination of US maize supplies by BT10 crops, and the coordinated attempts by Syngenta and the US authorities to cover up the scandal, there is now a concerted effort emanating from the US to convince the rest of the world that BT10 maize is safe to eat and poses no environmental threat. GM Free Cymru refuses to accept these bland assurances, and says that the episode shows that the US regulatory system is a shambles, with no serious attempt to control GM contamination of related crops in the countryside, and no effective method for keeping GM and non-GM food supplies apart. Like many other NGOs, GM Free Cymru claims that there is an undeclared Bush Administration policy to allow the whole of the US food chain to be polluted with GM materials. Through the WTO and through foreign aid programmes and diplomacy, the Adminstration is seeking to extend this policy across the planet.

GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said today: "This really is the last straw. American complacency about GM crops and foods has allowed a large GM corporation to pollute food supplies with unauthorised GM materials, and to go on polluting them for five years. Then they withhold information for at least four months, try to cover the whole episode up, and finally mount a massive PR campaign designed to allay our fears. And what has the EC, the British Government, and our own FSA done about it? Nothing at all, as far as we can see, apart from a bland and complacent response from DEFRA (9)
(10). We demand an immediate halt to all American maize imports into Europe as a minimum first step (11). We also demand the immediate implementation of GM testing measures at all British ports -- something that should have been done long ago. The US exporters and the EU importers must be prosecuted if any traces of BT10 are found in their shipments or food products or if their documentation is defective. And then imports should not be resumed until the EU has effective monitoring and testing procedures in place, and until GM liability legislation is on the statute books of all the EU countries. If they want it, let the Americans eat their own BT10 sweetcorn."


Contact: Dr Brian John
GM Free Cymru Tel 01239-820470

(1) "I have confirmed with FDA that "BT10 never went through an FDA consultation process." Therefore, it was never reviewed for unintended human health effects, at least not by the U.S." Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Center for Food Safety, 660 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 302, Washington, D.C. 20003

(2) A search of the EC / EFSA web site reveals that BT10 has never featured in any studies or discussions. The Syngenta event Bt 10 is a Lepadopteran toxin Cry1Ab.

24 May 2004 Approval of Bt11 Maize Endangers Humans and Livestock, by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

GM Food & Feed Not Fit for "Man or Beast" by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins

(5) The Lancet 354, 1353-4; also



(8) For typical Bt maize grain yield statistics, see: Bt maize yields are c 150 bushels per acre or c 5 tonnes per acre.

(9) DEFRA and FSA were informed by Syngenta of the contamination incident on 22 March 2005,

(10) According to DEFRA: "Food or feed derived from a mixture of Bt 11 and
Bt 10 maize seeds would not reveal the two original sources of Bt protein as they are identical." This is an unsupportable contention, and has no scientific validity.

(11) At present, in spite of the EU's claim that it has the best GM regulatory system in the world, there is no mechanism for testing imported cargoes of GM grains -- or other materials that might be contaminated with GM -- at ports and other points of entry into the EU.

2.NEWS MEDIA RELEASE 24/3/05 (AUSTRALIA) Recall Foods Contaminated by GM Corn

GeneEthics Network calls on the Food Authority (FSANZ) and Biosecurity Australia (BA) to immediately check for unapproved genetically manipulated (GM) corn variety Bt10 in our food supply. If confirmed, a general recall of all affected products should occur over Easter.

The journal Nature says that for four years the Bt10 variety of insect toxin GM corn seed, not approved anywhere as human food, has been grown by US and other farmers. Large amounts of the insect killing corn seed, mixed with an approved variety, were grown in many countries. Thousands of processed food products may contain this unapproved and untested variety.

"It seems likely rogue GM corn, variety Bt10 is now in shops here," says GeneEthics network Director, Bob Phelps.

"FSANZ and BA must urgently find out how much contaminated corn was imported and immediately order a general recall of all affected products over Easter," he says.

"It's incredible that for four years an unapproved GM corn variety, never assessed for human safety nor approved anywhere, has been entering crop and food chains world-wide," he says.

"The GM industry is out of control," he says.

"This is just the latest of many serious food pollution events, with unapproved varieties of GM corn," he says.

"Genetic pollution from GM crops appears inevitable, even with elaborate monitoring and assessment systems that are supposed to ensure safety and segregation," he says.

"News of this contamination follows scientific reports from the UK, that GM canola and other crops have negative impacts on natural ecosystems," he says.

"And because the GM industry knows GM contamination, health impacts and environmental pollution are inherent to GM technology it flatly refuses to accept any liability for the harm done by GM products," Mr Phelps says.

"The scandal is that governments do not require the GM industry to accept liability, responsibility or accountability, and they move it onto other vulnerable sections of our community," he says.

"The resources that regulators need to effectively guard our borders from invasions of genetic pollutants are wasted by the Australian government on punishing those innocent people in need of protection who arrive on our shores," he says.

"Much stronger and more effective import monitoring and assessment processes are urgently needed to ensure the Australian food supply and cropping systems are protected from secret GM contamination," Mr Phelps concludes.

More Comment: Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500 (O) 03 9889 1717 (H)

Bob Phelps Executive Director GeneEthics Network Level 1, 60 Leicester St, Carlton 3053 Australia
Tel: 03 9347 4500 {Int Code +613} or 1300 133 868
Fax: 03 9345 1166

This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the Ecological Farming Association <