An unidentified fragment of DNA has been detected by Belgian scientists inMonsanto’s Roundup Ready soya. Greenpeace is asking scientists worldwide tohelp identify it andis urging the government in the U.K. to suspend sales of the soya until itcan be identified.

The Belgian team’s discovery refers to “a DNA segment of 534 bp DNA forwhich no sequence homology could be detected.” Monsanto maintains the soyais not dangerous and says, “The information provided by Greenpeace has notchanged the competent authorities’ conclusions of their original riskassessment” and adds that “any deletion, rearrangement or modification ofthe DNA referred to by Greenpeace occurred at the time of the originalinsertion event.”

Dr. Doug Parr, chief scientific adviser for Greenpeace-U.K., says, “No oneknows what this extra gene sequence is, what it will produce in the soybean,and what its effects will be. If Monsanto did not even get this most basicinformation right, what should we then think about the validity of all theirsafety tests and experiments, which are based upon these data? DespiteMonsanto’s optimistic reassurances, this research presents further evidencethat genetic modification is an imprecise technology. Given the history ofomission and negligence associated with it, regulators should seriouslyreconsider how they approach approvals of GM plants.”

Lindsay Keenan, of Greenpeace International, says, “From a legal point ofview, the only adequate reaction regulatory bodies could have is to suspendthe GM approval and re-evaluate its environmental and health impact.”

Monsanto’s soya represents more than 50% of all GM crops globally. It isgrown only in the US, Argentina and Canada, but is sold worldwide and usedin processed foods like chocolate, baby food, bread, pizzas, ice-cream, andas animal feed.

Tony Combes of Monsanto says, “It [the DNA] would have been a constituent ofthe Roundup Ready soybeans used in all the safety assessment studies. Sothis clearer data is not new and has in fact been conveyed to all EuropeanUnion competent authorities.There is no discrepancy. The sequence information provided originally hasnot changed; it’s just that now we know more detail about it.” In otherwords, the new DNA was always there, but Greenpeace has just discovered it.

Combes says studies support the conclusion that there are no unexpectedeffects from the insertion or transformation process, and that Roundup Readysoya is comparable to conventional beans except for the one trait whichgives it its name.

The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which advises thegovernment in the U.K., says it is satisfied with Monsanto’s revised riskassessment submitted in response to the Belgian data. The committeeconcluded that Monsanto “did not alter the conclusions of the originalassessment . . . the presence of the DNA does not appear to have anydeleterious effects with respect to environmental safety.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs saysthe Belgian data “are not new and change nothing.”

The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes asked Monsanto inJanuary for data showing the DNA fragment was inactive and does not resultin the production of a new protein.

Tony Combes says, “We’re doing the experiments to provide the data thecommittee wants, and they should be complete very soon. But its concerns arenothing to do with safety. They’re all technical.”

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