A group of consumer and environmental groups in the U.S. isasking the USDA to prohibit a new kind of GM crop that couldcontaminate our food supply. These are crops that areengineered to contain prescription drugs or industrialchemicals. The news crops are already planted in over 300fields in secret locations throughout the U.S. They includeplants that produce a chemical that can cause abortions,growth hormones, a chemical that induces blood clots and anenzyme that causes allergies in most people.
The watchdog group, Genetically Engineered Food Alert, says,"Just one mistake by a biotech company and we'll be eatingother people's prescription drugs in our corn flakes." LarryBohlen, of Friends of the Earth, says, ?The USDA shouldprohibit the planting of food crops engineered with drugsand chemicals to protect the food supply from contamination."
USDA keeps all drug and chemical crop sites secret from thepublic and neighboring farmers and allows companies to plantthe crops without identification or security measures. JoeJilka works for ProdiGene, which is developing TGEV cornthat contains a pig vaccine. He says, "...the best way tosecure it is to grow it just like any other corn. In otherwords, the anonymity of it just completely hides it.?
Regular alfalfa was planted "within 200 yards of the testsite" of a field of alfalfa engineered with industrialenzymes. The USDA approved the planting despite objectionsfrom the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture. The GM crop wasgrown to the stage where it had open flowers, whichincreases the risk that GM pollen will end up pollinatingthe regular crop. The National Academy of Sciences says, "...it is possiblethat crops transformed to produce pharmaceutical or otherindustrial compounds might mate with plantationsgrown for human consumption, with the unanticipated resultof novel chemicals in the human food supply."
Corn, which is often pollinated by the wind, is oftenmodified to produce biopharmaceuticals and chemicals. Thereare already documented cases of standard StarLink corncontaminating nearby organic fields. ProdiGene predicts that10% of thecorn crop will be devoted to biopharm production by 2010.ProdiGene would like to do away with the requirement thatthere be buffer areas between the GM crops and regular cropsentirely. CEO Anthony Laos says, "We will be dealing withthese distances until we can gain regulatory approval tolessen or abandon these requirements altogether."
Some companies want to extract the drugs or chemicals fromGM plants, then sell the remainder of the crop for otheruses. If the extraction is incomplete, drugs or chemicalscould remain behind to contaminate food or animal feed. Ifcontaminated feed is given to animals that humans eat, itcould be passed down to us.
What can we do to protect ourselves from unwanted GM foodsin our diet? Read ?Eating in the Dark? by KathleenHart,click here.
To learn about Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA),click here.
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