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USDA Sold Potentially Toxic Corn to Food and Feed Handler: May Have Violated Cargill Policy and Monsanto Grower Agreement

(Friday, May 16, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release.

WHO-TV in Iowa is running a teaser featuring Dr. Carr this afternoon. During the main feature tonight, he will say that Iowa farmer Jerry Rosman's corn should have been burned rather than sold in to food and feed channels.


Contacts: Larry Bohlen, FoE, 202-270-1547

Chris Bedford, HSUS, 240-432-7520
cell, 515-283-0777

Jerry Rosman, 712-579-1130

DES MOINES, IOWA – An environmental group and an animal welfare organization today jointly released evidence that, for a second time, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sold corn that one of its own researchers said might contain a novel toxin. The groups raised concern that the suspect corn may end up being used as animal feed or even in grocery products. The corn, a genetically engineered variety not approved for sale as food in the European Union, was apparently delivered to a Cargill processing facility in Blair, Nebraska.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) obtained copies of receipts for sale of more than 18,000 bushels of corn marketed by the Commodities Credit Corporation on behalf of the USDA’s Farm Services Agency (FSA). It was sold on Feb. 3 to Feb. 6 to Koster Grain Company, a handler of corn for food and feed in Carroll, Iowa. The corn is suspected by the USDA’s own researchers to have caused severe reproductive problems in pigs in Iowa. It is also a variety genetically engineered by Monsanto (MON) to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

According to a May 15th report on CropChoice.com, “one of the haulers, who wished to remain anonymous, said he took the corn to the Cargill plant in Blair, Neb.” Cargill has an explicit policy rejecting Roundup Ready corn at its Blair, Nebraska facility to avoid rejection of its products in the European Union. It is listed on Cargill’s website and posted in its email newsletter to growers. Monsanto requires growers to deliver its Roundup Ready corn to designated handlers in order to avoid mixing it with corn destined for export markets that do not accept it. As of May 15, Koster Grain was not on the American Seed Trade Association list handlers that are willing to take Roundup Ready corn (see http://asta.farmprogress.com – no www.).

“It appears that the USDA violated an Iowa farmer’s grower agreement with Monsanto and they may have sold Cargill truckloads of corn that nobody would want to get caught using as food,” said Lori Sokolowski a member of the Iowa Farmers Union.

The corn originated on the farm operated by Jerry Rosman, an Iowa farmer whose hogs suffered unexplained reproductive failure in 2000 and 2001. A lead researcher in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Ames, Iowa, wrote in August that, “one possible cause of this problem may be the presence of an unanticipated, biologically active, chemical compound within the corn.” Researchers at Iowa State later released a statement saying that genetically engineered Bt corn was not the cause of swine reproductive failures experienced by numerous local farmers, but did not conclude whether some other aspect of the corn was causing the problems.

“This is worse than USDA oversights involving biopharmaceutical corn contamination of soybeans last year. In this case, the USDA is the party responsible for putting a crop with a potentially harmful substance into food and feed channels,” said Larry Bohlen, Director of Health and Environment Programs at Friends of the Earth.

In a letter to the USDA last fall, FoE urgently appealed to Secretary Veneman to obtain all of the corn to save it for science and to keep it off the market as long as the source of the reproductive problems remained unknown. The USDA wrote a response, dated Oct. 29, saying that USDA “scientists are testing the corn to determine if it contains a novel toxin that might impact swine production.” In a fax from FSA to Friends of the Earth dated Feb. 5th, an FSA official claims that the USDA tested for one compound known to cause reproductive problems in lab animals and could not find it, but “did not test the samples for any other compounds.” Farmer and environmental advocates have asked why the corn was sold before the mystery was solved and when the USDA will complete an investigation.

"At a time when independent hog farmers are struggling with record-low prices, they cannot afford to be impacted by a problem that has been largely ignored by the USDA. We hope that the USDA will take action before more farmers like Jerry Rosman are forced out of business," said Chris Bedford, Farm Animal and Sustainable Agriculture Campaign Coordinator.

By a twist of legal fate, the USDA took possession of 19,000 bushels of the corn through the FSA. The corn is part of the 2001 harvest from the Rolling R Farm in Harlan, Iowa. It was used as collateral on a loan to the operation once managed by farmer Jerry Rosman. USDA officials in Washington, D.C., had directed that the corn not be sold as food or feed. The FSA attempted in late 2002 to sell the corn for ethanol production but it was rejected by Tall Corn Ethanol, a local processor. A byproduct of ethanol is gluten, used in animal feed and human food, raising concern that any problem with the corn might enter the food chain. The FSA sale in February follows one it made in January of 950 bushels to G & R Grain and Feed Company of Portsmouth, Iowa.

The reproductive problem experienced by sows is called pseudopregnancy and is characterized by false pregnancy, in which the animal exhibits the signs of pregnancy for a full term but carries no fetus. The Rolling R Farm is not the only operation to suffer the problem. According to IFU, which has been running radio announcements and print ads with The Humane Society of the United States in Farm News and Iowa Farmer Today (NE & NW editions) to assess the extent of the problem, more than 20 farmers have been impacted. The organizations continue to take calls from concerned farmers, and they plan to put these farmers in touch with researchers interested in solving the pregnancy problems.

# # # More information on the suspect corn, including an exchange of letters with the USDA, may be found at www.foe.org. Information about Jerry Rosman’s effort to save his corn for science may be found at www.SaveJerrysCorn.com. A three-part investigative TV report airing May 15-17 should be available at www.WHOTV.com (video of part 1 is posted under “Iowa Farmer Blames Corn for Infertility in Sows,” text of part 1 is at http://www.whotv.com/Global/story.asp?S=1270118&nav=5ZinFpZZ and text for part 2 is at http://www.whotv.com/Global/story.asp?S=1280176&nav=5ZinFqYW).