Center for Food Safety Calls for Further Investigation and Rigorous Testing Standards for Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops
Washington D.C., October 10, 2007 - Today, the Center for Food Safety voiced concern regarding a study issued by a team of researchers on the potential harm posed by the genetically engineered (GE) Bt variety of corn. The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, establishes that pollen and other material from Bt corn is washing into streams and river headwaters. The study further found through laboratory trials that Bt corn material is toxic to insects that play an important role in aquatic ecosystems. As a result, Bt corn may pose a serious threat to our nation's waterways and the plants, fish and animals that inhabit them.
"This is yet another example of a government agency granting clearance for a GE organism without requiring meaningful or stringent testing," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Bt corn is planted widely throughout the U.S. Had a study like this been done prior to the government's approval, we would not be looking at a popular crop that has the potential to broadly disrupt the environment."
Bt corn is engineered to include a pesticide-producing gene that targets the European corn borer and other pasts that can inhabit corn fields. It was licensed for use in 1996. By 2006, 40 percent of corn acreage planted in the U.S. was genetically modified with the Bt trait, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The new study further reports that in lab trails, caddisflies - insects closely related to the corn pests - are killed when exposed to the Bt toxin, and concluded that stream flies "that consume Bt corn litter may experience reduced growth, which can negatively influence fitness, because adult size of aquatic insects is directly related to fecundity."
Caddisflies are imperative to healthy, normally functioning stream ecosystems; they serve as food for fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
This report is only the latest identification of a problem posed by poor federal oversight of genetically altered crops. Contamination of many of the nation's rice farms by a GE variety has rendered much of American rice unsuitable for sale overseas. Earlier this year, a court ruled that Round-up Ready alfalfa was never fully tested by regulatory agencies to determine environmental impacts and may pose a threat to organic and conventional varieties of the crop.
"From rice to Bt corn, we are only finding out about the threats posed by GE crops after they have been cleared by government regulatory agencies," continued Mendelson. "The federal government's slipshod approach to testing threatens the environment, organic food production, and our farmer's livelihoods. It's time we all demand more accountability from biotech firms and more stringent regulations from USDA and FDA."
The report, Toxins In Transgenic Crop Byproducts May Affect Headwater Stream Ecosystems, was written by Todd V. Royer of Indiana University, Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of the University of Notre Dame and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University. It was funded by the National Science Foundation.