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GM Battle Sprouts in the States; other news

(Friday, April 29, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. USDA warned about cutting corners on rice with human genes: Pharmaceuticals in experimental rice likely to contaminate food supply
2. Monsanto versus Farmers
3. GM Battle Sprouts in the States
4. Firm races against clock to plant rice in Missouri
5. Biotech rice firm looks at backup plans
6. Opposition KOs planned plot at Chaffee: Area farmers rally to protest genetic rice
7. Farmers tout benefits of using biotech crops
8. US Corn Grower Official Cites Japan Biotech Qualms
9. US Government and Biotech Firm Deceive Public on GM Corn Mix-up

1. USDA warned about cutting corners on rice with human genes: Pharmaceuticals in experimental rice likely to contaminate food supply

(contact: Dr. Jane Rissler, Union of Concerned Scientists, (202) 331-5434 or (304) 728-6166; Joe Mendelson, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359; Bill Freese, Friends of the Earth, (301) 985-3011.

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2005) -- Groups opposed to the planting of pharmaceutical-producing rice in Missouri delivered a letter today to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns calling upon the agency to conduct a rigorous review before making a decision on whether or not to allow the field trials to proceed.

Ventria Bioscience first applied to the USDA for permission to plant its pharmaceutical rice in rice-growing southeast Missouri. Vehement opposition from farmers, and a threatened boycott of Missouri rice by Anheuser-Busch, forced Ventria and the company's political supporters to scrap this plan and propose a new, as yet unspecified, location further from commercial rice production. Ventria's rice is engineered with human genes to produce novel pharmaceutical proteins that have not been approved for any use by the Food and Drug Administration.

"It is virtually impossible to prevent pharmaceuticals from entering the food supply when food crops are engineered to produce drugs," said Dr. Jane Rissler, senior scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which recently published a report on this topic. "A new location in Missouri will not resolve our contamination concerns."

While a USDA spokesperson has said the department will prepare environmental assessments of the field trials in the new location and offer the public an opportunity to comment on the assessments, the groups are concerned that lobbying by Missouri political leaders to expedite government review could lead the USDA to cut corners.

"Ventria's rice varieties contain drugs that have not been approved for human consumption," said Joe Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. "It is imperative that the USDA examine these varieties carefully and publicly. Fast-tracking a decision is unacceptable in light of the risks, and would certainly undermine USDA's credibility both here and abroad."

In the letter to Secretary Johanns, the groups requested that USDA, in accordance with its own routine protocols, conduct new environmental assessments and hold a minimum 30-day public comment period should Ventria propose a new location for its rice.

Co-signers to the USDA letter include the Union of Concerned Scientists, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, Greenpeace, Water and Food Working Group of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and Californians for GE-Free Agriculture.


Attached: Letter to Secretary Johanns

UCS's recent report on pharm crops, "A Growing Concern: Protecting the Food Supply in an Era of Pharmaceutical and Industrial Crops," edited by Dr. David Andow, is available at http://www.ucsusa.org


"Pharmaceutical Rice in Missouri," a briefing by Friends of the Earth, is available at http://www.foe.org/biopharm

2. Monsanto versus Farmers


The world's biggest genetically engineered seed owner destroys time-honoured traditions of seed saving and drives American farmers to destitution and bankruptcy. Sam Burcher

Odds stacked against farmers

Feudalism has returned to farming in the US and Canada, according to the US Center for Food Safety's report detailing the domination over American staple crops by the corporations and their ruthless prosecution of farmers.

Once the ink is dried on the "technology agreements" signed by the farmers buying genetically modified (GM) seed, they enter into contracts that effectively relinquish to Monsanto their right to plant, harvest and sell the GM seed. From that moment on, they are also vulnerable to harassment such as having their property investigated, litigations and out of court settlements that are part and parcel of licensing a Monsanto patented product.

No grower is safe from this onslaught as third generation Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser discovered when he lost to Monsanto in court for failing to pay royalties on GM canola seed that had contaminated his non-GM canola crop. "The corporations are becoming the barons and lords, which are what my grandparents thought they had escaped." Schmeiser said.

To-date, Monsanto has filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers; and 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or farm companies have had to fight for their lives to avoid paying additional court costs, attorneys⤙ fees, and in some cases, costs incurred by Monsanto while investigating them.

The Center for Food Safety estimates that Monsanto has been awarded over $15 million for judgments granted in their favour. The largest recorded single payment received from one farmer was US$3 052 800 (Farmer Anderson, Case no. 4:01: CV-01 749).

Monsanto controls US staple crops by licence

For the first time in history, one company has unprecedented control of the sale and use of crop seed. They have accomplished this in three main ways: control of germplasm through ownership of seed companies; domination of genetic technology and seeds through patent acquisitions; and breaking age-old farming tradition by forcing farmers to buy new seed each year rather than saving and re-planting seed.

Buying or merging with most of the major seed companies, including their recent acquisition of the giant fruit and vegetable seed company Seminis, has made Monsanto's the largest GM seed vendor in the world, providing 90% of the GM seed sown globally. It has also cornered most of the soybean market and 50% of the corn germplasm market in the US. And if Monsanto doesn't actually own the seed purchasing companies, it has been known to impose the condition that a minimum of 70% (reduced from 90% by government regulators) of its patented seeds are sold by subsidiary companies. This ensures that its seeds are the most readily available to farmers.

American farmers are hard pushed to find high quality, conventional varieties of corn, soy and cottonseed. Anecdotal evidence supports this. Troy Roush, an Indiana soybean farmer says, "You can't even purchase them in this market. They are not available." Similar reports come from the corn and cotton farmers who say, "There are not too many seeds available that are not genetically altered in some way."

Over the last 10, 000 years, diverse genetic pools have been created and preserved by plant breeders. Monsanto has put these diverse gene pools at risk by contaminating certified and traditional seed stocks, and by not permitting farmers to save seeds. A feudal system of seed ownership destroys perhaps the key privilege of a farmer as the guardian of societies' crop heritage. And it has turned agriculture into an industry where the corporations consolidate their hold over costly seeds and chemicals that increase farmers spending on inputs. Meanwhile monopolies are created in corporate manipulated markets that include fewer buyers who demand the lowest possible prices for the outputs produced by farmers, forcing them into a debt spiral. In 2003 Monsanto made $3.1 billion in pesticide sales and $1.6 billion in seed sales.

Farmers are under pressure to confirm their identity as modern agriculturalists, particularly in developing countries. But replacing the traditional strategy of saving and replanting seeds from diverse varieties by a patented seed with all its restrictions threatens food security at household and global levels.

Patents place the burden on farmers

Over the past twenty years, Monsanto has voraciously accumulated collected patents on engineered plants, seeds and genetic engineering techniques, perhaps most importantly, the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter, the commonest component in the genetic engineer's toolbox. Along with CaMV35S, which other biotech companies pay exorbitant fees to license, Monsanto owns 647 plant biotech patents and a 29% share of all biotech research and development.

Patents have changed the face of farming because the farmer has lost control of seeds. Once farmers paid royalties on seed to the US Plant Variety Protection Act or Canada Plant Breeders Rights Act licensees who allowed seed saving. Since the 1980s, the US Patent and Trademark Office began issuing patents for GM organisms and seeds and have granted more than 2 000 since 1985. Professor Lawrence Busch of Michigan State University estimates the saving of soybean seed dropped from 31% in 1991 to just 10% in 2001 after the introduction of the GM soybean; this translates into an additional $374 million in seed industry profits in 2001.

Robert Schubert, the author of Farming's New Feudalism believes than an important strategy in saving independent farmers is to remove agriculture, food and water from the control of the WTO. His message is no "free" trade where farming is concerned and no patents.

When Monsanto suspects that saved seed containing a "Monsanto genetic trait," have been grown, documentation is requested from the farmers to confirm that the crop was planted from newly purchased seed. If proof is not forthcoming, then all of the growers⤙ fields may be tested and inspected to determine if saved seed was used. Even after the farmer has extricated himself from Monsanto technology agreements, if volunteer plants sprout up in his fields from transgenic seeds purchased and sown from previous years, he is still vulnerable to allegations of patent infringement.

Farmers intimidated by Monsanto

Here's what typically happens to US farmers who fall under suspicion of planting saved seed. Private investigators from the Pinkerton agency hired by Monsanto arrive on the farm without warning, sometimes accompanied by local police. They then proceed to take samples and photographs over the course of a few hours to a few weeks, without the farmer being present.

One Mississippi farmer who runs a farm shop from his farmhouse was subjected to constant surveillance by Monsanto investigators who watched the family coming and going, warned off customers, and even rented an empty lot across the street from where to position their cameras.

Monsanto used entrapment to file a lawsuit against another farmer, when one of their investigators begged seeds from him to help solve an erosion problem too late in the season to plant crops. If personal intimidation fails, Monsanto resorts to another violation of privacy by sending a registered letter threatening to "tie the farmer up in court for years" if he refuses to settle out of court for patent infringement. One farmer who challenged this intimidation had his name blacklisted on thousands of seed dealers' lists. He concedes, "It is easier to give into them than it is to fight them."

A further example is seed dealers who sell seeds in plain brown bags so farmers sow them unknowingly. This happened to Farmer Thomason who was harassed into court by Monsanto and sued for over a million dollars. He had no choice but to file for bankruptcy despite never intending to plant Bt cotton.

In 1999, The Washington Post reported that the number of farmers under investigation in US and Canada was 525. A later report confirmed that Monsanto was investigating 500 farmers in 2004 "as they do every year." Once a farmer agrees to settle out of court he may be forced to present all documents relating to farm activity within 24 hours of request, purchase a specific quantity of company product and disclose the names of other people that have saved company seed.

Contamination of conventional seed stock

Researchers at the University of Manitoba, Canada tested 33 samples of certified canola (oilseed rape) seed stock and 32 were contaminated with GM. The Union of Concerned Scientists tested traditional US seed stocks of corn, soy and canola and found 50% corn, 50% soy and 83% canola contaminated by GM.

One hundred percent purity is no longer achievable, and even if non-contaminated seed could be purchased, some contamination can take place in the field either by transfer of seed by wind, animals or via farm equipment.

Monsanto dominates the sale of seed stocks yet puts the onus of finding markets for crops on the farmer. Within their contract is the "Technology Use Guide" which gives directions on how to find grain handlers willing to accept crops not approved for use in the EU. While Monsanto acknowledges that pollen flow and seed movement are sufficient to contaminate neighbouring non-GM fields their implicit rule is that "the growers of the non-GM crops must assume responsibility and receive the benefit for ensuring that their crops meet specifications for purity."

Monsanto profits from lawsuits against farmers

Outcomes of lawsuits brought by Monsanto against farmers are mostly kept under wraps. If farmers are tempted to breach confidentiality they can face fines greater than the settlements. But where judgments have been publicly recorded, sizeable payments benefit not only Monsanto, but also partner companies.

Combined financial penalties have forced many farmers into bankruptcy and off their land. Agriculture is suffering losses all around because of the disappearance of foreign markets. The US Farm Bureau estimates that farmers lose over $300 million a year because European markets refuse GM corn. The US State Department says that as much as $4 billion could be lost in agricultural exports due to EU labelling and traceability requirements. Organic and conventional farmers alike have lost their premium markets through having no choice but to sell their contaminated crops into GM crop streams.

Monsanto denies making profits from the misery of farmers and claims that proceeds go to agricultural school programmes, which some does, but by no means all. An annual budget of $10 million is set aside each year to run a department of 75 staff dedicated to prosecuting farmers.

What Monsanto did next

Monsanto has another way of controlling patented genes. So called "terminator technology" are seeds that become infertile after one life cycle. The international moratorium on terminator ended when New Zealand and Australia announced it would support the technology's introduction on a case-by-case basis at a 2005 meeting in Canada. The US Administration in Iraq has already enforced the non-replanting of seeds by farmers, under Order 81. Both GURTS (Genetic Use Restriction Technologies) and "technology agreements," used as weapons against farmers when they purchase GM seed, have not been legally challenged. It's high time that patent laws on living organisms that are encouraged by legislators, regulators and the courts alike, come under public scrutiny.

Amending the Patent Act so that sexually reproducing plants are not patentable and amending the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) to exclude such plants from protection under the PVPA are two policy options suggested by the Center for Food Safety to defend farmers from Monsanto. This would minimise the damage done to farmers and agriculture in the long term. Drastic policy changes are needed at state and federal levels to address the hounding of farmers, their families and small agricultural companies by the aggressive tactics of a big corporation determined to destroy traditional farming practices and rights that go back thousands of years.

Farmers facing lawsuits or threats from Monsanto can call this toll-free hotline for guidance and referrals: 1-888-FARMHLP


Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers, 2005. A report by the Center for Food Safety © 2004, Center for Food Safety http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org

Robert Schubert. Farming's New Feudalism, World Watch 2005. © Worldwatch Institute. http://www.worldwatch.org

3. GM Battle Sprouts in the States

By Eric Kelderman, Stateline.org, April 25, 2005

Seed companies, pharmaceutical makers and biotechnology groups are pushing legislators to limit oversight of experimental crops designed to resist disease and insects or to produce chemicals and enzymes for scientific research. But environmentalists and food and beverage producers are urging caution, warning lawmakers of unknown economic and health risks of genetically engineered crops that could cross-pollinate with regular plants.

State lawmakers, so far, are siding mostly with biotechnology proponents. Seven states -- Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Pennsylvania -- have enacted laws to prohibit counties and other local governments from banning or regulating genetically enhanced seeds in their jurisdictions. A similar bill, supported by the agribusiness industry, is awaiting action by the governor in Georgia. And like-minded measures are being considered by legislatures in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

At the same time, two states are considering new restrictions and penalties designed to limit bioengineered crops. A bill in the Vermont Legislature would make seed companies, instead of farmers, liable for damage from genetically modified plants. And in Oregon, a bill has been introduced to ban the outdoor growing of genetically engineered plants intended for industrial or pharmaceutical uses.

While genetically engineered plants have long been controversial in Europe, the issue erupted in the United States last year when voters in three California counties banned high-tech crops within their borders. Those actions have sparked a state-by-state effort to prevent local governments from enacting similar prohibitions.

"We think local governments have enough problems without having to incur the costs of regulating an industry monitored by three federal agencies," said Ab Basu, who lobbies states for CropLife America, an association that represents ag-business giants such as BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agrosciences, Monsanto and Syngenta. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency already put limits on genetically modified plants, and farmers do not want unnecessary and overlapping local laws, he said.

Growers come down on both sides of the issue. Iowa state Rep. Sandy Greiner (R), a farmer and supporter of her state's new seed law, said the measure prevents a patchwork of varying regulations within the Hawkeye State. She notes that states already have jurisdiction over other widely used agricultural products, such as fertilizer and pesticides.

But Iowa state Rep. Mark Kuhn (D), also a farmer, said local governments should have the ability to protect growers who worry about contamination from genetically modified plants, especially farmers trying to meet the standards for certified organic crops. Kuhn sponsored a failed amendment to the Iowa bill that would have given counties the right to establish limited zones prohibiting bioengineered plants.

Some opponents of the high-tech crops also want to preempt local governments -- by imposing stricter rules against growing those plants. Rick North, an advocate of the Oregon bill limiting genetically engineered plants statewide, said that experimental crops would inevitably contaminate the food supply if they were not properly controlled. "We don't want drugs ... or industrial chemicals" in our food, said North, a spokesman for the Oregon chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

That's a sentiment reflected in the attitudes of many major food and beverage companies that must ensure the safety of their products to consumers worldwide. Brewery giant Anheuser-Busch has threatened to stop buying rice -- a common ingredient for some mass-produced beers -- from Missouri farmers if the pharmaceutical company Ventria Bioscience is allowed to plant an experimental variety of that crop in the Show Me State.

"Because Ventria's Pharma rice is not 'generally recognized as safe' ... it is not appropriate for food consumption, and even if it were, Anheuser-Busch believes that genetically modified rice should be segregated from traditional rice varieties to give food manufacturers and consumers the choice to use such rice," the company stated in written comments to the FDA.

Riceland Foods Inc., which markets rice, soybeans and wheat grown by roughly 9,000 farmers in five states, also opposes Ventria's experimental rice in Missouri, as does the National Food Products Association, which is the largest trade association serving the food and beverage industry in the United States and worldwide.

4. Firm races against clock to plant rice in Missouri

By BILL LAMBRECHT, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WASHINGTON: Ventria Bioscience wants to plant rice that is engineered to produce proteins that could be used in drugs.

ANALYSIS: While state officials are pressing for permission from the Agriculture Department, the timing may be off for this year's growing season. The government's rules for permits and nature's rules for planting may combine to nip in the bud a quest to sprout pharmaceutical crops in Missouri.

Missouri political leaders are pressing the Agriculture Department to shorten its permit review so a California company can sow pharmaceutical rice in Missouri yet this spring. But the Agriculture Department has given no indication that it will relent, a threat both to the project at hand and to Missouri's hopes to establish itself as a leader in converting croplands to factories for drugs.

The company, Ventria Bioscience, agreed April 15 to find a site for its pharmaceutical rice at least 120 miles from southeast Missouri's rice-growing lands. In return, Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. said it would continue to purchase Missouri-grown rice, which the brewery had threatened to boycott if Ventria planted in the Bootheel. Ventria's rice is far from conventional: It is genetically engineered to produce human proteins that could be used in medicines and other products.

The prospect of this specially engineered rice becoming commingled with edible rice troubled the brewery, as it does rice-growers, environmental advocates and much of the nation's food industry.

After spending five months reviewing Ventria's initial proposals, the Agriculture Department said last week that winning approval of a new or hastily amended application would not be a simple matter.

Karen Eggert, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department unit that oversees permits, said a new environmental assessment and public comment period could require a month or more -- which could take Ventria beyond the limits of rice-planting season in Missouri.

Last week, Gov. Matt Blunt appealed to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to expedite government review, said Jessica Robinson, a spokeswoman for Blunt. "We're very, very hopeful that it happens," she said.

Ventria encountered the same trouble in California a year ago when it was forced, under pressure from rice-growers, to move its planting site far from commercial rice fields and then ran out of time to win a federal permit.

"Deja vu all over again," remarked Ventria president Scott Deeter. Deeter said Ventria was still mulling over potential new sites in southwest and northwest Missouri that he declined to identify. But his company has concluded, Deeter said, that the pharmaceutical rice would need to be planted by May 20 to have enough time for its 155-day growing season.

"We're trying to figure out what the path forward looks like for us," he said. Ventria recently obtained a federal permit for growing its engineered rice on five acres in North Carolina, a far smaller project than the initial 200-acre planting envisioned in Missouri.

Ventria's rice is engineered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme, two proteins that occur in breast milk, saliva and bodily fluids. The proteins are effective in combating bacteria, viruses, funguses and parasites; the company has said they could be especially valuable in fighting the diarrhea that commonly afflicts children in developing countries. Critics worry that the pharmaceutical rice will become commingled with edible rice, a threat both to food and to continued exports to countries that that harbor a deep distrust of genetic engineering.

Missouri connection

Ventria's setbacks are especially troublesome on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University, which was instrumental in bringing the company to Missouri and rallying Missouri's political leaders behind the project.

Ventria and Northwest Missouri State, in Maryville, Mo., signed an agreement in November calling for the university to build and equip a $30 million plant-sciences center in Maryville that will house Ventria and perhaps other companies.

Ventria agreed to move its operations from Sacramento to Maryville. The university received a 4 percent share in Ventria. And university president Dean Hubbard helped raise $5 million in venture capital from private sources, money that the company already has received.

Hubbard said last week that he envisions putting his university on the ground floor of a new technology while at the same time helping Missouri farmers add value to their crops.

"My goal is to transform the rural economy and also to provide unique educational opportunities," he said.

Hubbard, who has since became a Ventria board member, said he is disappointed in the growing possibility that Ventria will miss Missouri's window for rice-planting this season. He said he felt guilty for suggesting initially that Ventria plant in the Bootheel, where an uprising by rice growers led to Anheuser-Busch's threatened boycott.

But Hubbard said that his university's relationship with Ventria will continue, as will plans to break ground in the coming weeks on what will be called the Center of Excellence in Plant-Made Pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, Ventria will work to engineer rice suitable to the soils of northwest Missouri rather than the prime rice-growing region of the Bootheel, he said.

"You just have to face the facts," he said. "It's too bad that the farmers take the hit again and that the growers in southeast Missouri passed up this opportunity."

Bill Freese, a Washington-based analyst for Friends of the Earth, said shortening the permit review process "would compromise the Agriculture Department's credibility in regulating these pharmaceutical crops." He said his advocacy group has asked that a 30-day public comment period for such permits remain the policy.

Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., said that in standing up for Ventria and the university, Missouri had demonstrated its support for biotechnology and sound science. "We're not driving the boat," he said. "We have urged everybody to look at it to see if they (Ventria) can meet all their requirements. We would love to see it get done. But we want to make sure any time we're dealing with something like this that the regulatory agencies carry out their responsibilities."

Reporter Bill Lambrecht of the Post-Dispatch's Washington bureau covers environmental issues and national politics.

5. Biotech rice firm looks at backup plans

By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian, April 26, 2005

With the rice-growing season several weeks old, a biotech firm wanting to plant Missouri's first-ever genetically modified rice crop indicated Monday that last-minute setbacks make producing a crop this year less likely.

"We haven't given up, but it's going to be pretty tough," Ventria Biosciences president Scott Deeter said. "We're still working whatever angles we can to make it work in Missouri, but we're business people. We're developing alternatives as we speak." Ventria is looking at backup plans such as getting pharmaceutical rice crops started in North Carolina, where it already has permits, and supplementing those crops in South American fields later this year.

"We're definitely going to have some production this year, whether or not it's in Missouri," he said.

Deeter says Ventria has set a deadline of May 20 to see if it can clear governmental hurdles in Missouri created when it agreed to abandon its original plan of growing 150 acres of so-called pharmaceutical crops -- those that contain human medicines -- in Chaffee.

The company agreed earlier this month to find another site that would be at least 120 miles from Southeast Missouri rice country, where rice is grown for human consumption. That change was in response to pressure from local farmers and to beer giant Anheuser-Busch's threat to discontinue buying Missouri rice. Both feared the genetically modified rice would contaminate rice grown for human consumption and damage their markets. Based on that agreement, Anheuser-Busch backed off from its boycott and eased the minds of some rice farmers in the Bootheel. Anheuser-Busch is one of the country's largest buyers of rice, which is a starch component of its beers.

Another concern for farmers was how Riceland, the world's largest rice miller and biggest buyer of Missouri rice, would react to the agreement. Riceland spokesman Bill Reed said the agreement addresses the company's major concerns.

Unlikely to meet deadline

That leaves Ventria searching for another spot in Missouri to grow rice and for permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow it there. While Deeter said the California company has a few unnamed spots in Missouri in mind, the process is unlikely to be completed in time to meet the company's deadline.

That dims the hopes of some, including Gov. Matt Blunt, that the Ventria project would enable Missouri to become a big-time player in the pharmaceutical crop industry. Ventria says its genetically modified rice could be engineered to produce proteins that could address health issues like severe dehydration due to diarrhea, which kills more than 1.3 million children under the age of 5 every year across the globe.

Blunt has asked the USDA to expedite the permitting process, but USDA spokeswoman Karen Eggert said the department is waiting to hear whether Vent! ria wants to amend its current permit or apply for an entirely new one.

Either way, she said, a new environmental assessment would have to be done at a new site involving government scientists studying the area to make sure the project would not pose risks to other crops or people. She said the assessment includes a 30-day period of public comment. The process takes anywhere from a month to seven months, she said.

Differences in climate

Even if Ventria does get the permits it needs and does find a spot in a different area of the state, some experts and farmers say Ventria may still have problems because some parts of the state aren't conducive to rice growing.

Gerald Bryan, an agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension office in Jackson, said rice has been grown in the Hannibal, Mo., area in the past. But he said Southeast Missouri has ideal conditions for growing rice because of its ample water supply, flat land and lengthy growing season.

"The problem they're going to have with Ventria is you lose 10 days of growing season if you get as far north as St. Louis," he said. "When you lose days like that, it may not be enough to let your crop mature."

Also, Bryan said, few places outside Southeast Missouri have enough natural irrigation to grow rice. Southeast Missouri also has the best soil types for growing rice, Bryan said.

Deeter, however, said it can be done in other parts of the state. Ventria's project doesn't need as big a yield as rice for food. The company is evaluating four different areas of the state to see which one would work best. The company also is looking at developing new varieties of rice that could be grown in less-than-ideal conditions.

"Obviously, Southeast Missouri was our first choice for a reason," he said. "Now we're looking for the second-best area. So we know our potential for lost yield is increased. So we'll just have to cross our fingers."

If no crop is grown this year in Missouri, Ventria will make another go of it in the state in 2006, Deeter said, though not in Southeast Missouri. Ventria has developed a partnership with Northwest Missouri State University, which played a big role in bringing the company to Missouri from California, where it had similar troubles.

The university signed an agreement last year with Ventria in which Northwest agreed to build and equip a $30 million plant sciences center in Maryville, Mo., to house Ventria. Deeter said the company still plans to honor that commitment to Missouri and to that university.

Hoping for FDA ruling

He also hopes some of the rice farmers will have their concerns allayed if the Food and Drug Administration rules that genetically modified rice -- specifically the proteins that will be created -- is safe for human consumption. That may smooth out the process next year.

The FDA is studying that issue.

But farmers still have concerns. About 30 rice farmers and two state legislators gathered to discuss them Friday night at a meeting in Dexter held by the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council.

"Even if it's more than 120 miles from us, we still have concerns," said B.J. Campbell, a board member who farms 700 acres near Qulin, Mo. "There's still birds that can carry it that far. Those birds fly hundreds of miles, and it could still end up in our crops."

Campbell wants to see legislation drafted to set parameters for growing "pharm crops,! " such as strict monitoring and legally requiring Ventria to keep the genetically modified crops 120 miles from the commercial rice crops.

"When it comes to rice buyers, there's a zero tolerance when it comes to genetically modified rice," he said. "We can't afford to take another hit to our markets."

6. Opposition KOs planned plot at Chaffee: Area farmers rally to protest genetic rice

by David Silverberg, Daily American Republic, 22 April 2005

Opposition to the proposed production of genetically modified rice near Chaffee was expressed by Southeast Missouri rice farmers to state legislators during a Saturday morning rally at Curtis Worley's farm southeast of Poplar Bluff.

"We want to stop it for fear of contamination to our rice," said Worley, who also is concerned about potential economic losses because of concerns expressed by two large purchasers of Southeast Missouri rice.

State Sen. Rob Mayer, Speaker of the House Rod Jetton and Reps. Gayle Kingery and Mike Dethrow were among legislators who participated in the rally at Worley's farm. Mayer informed the farmers that Ventria Bioscience, which is moving from California to Missouri, has agreed to not grow genetically modified rice in Southeast Missouri.

"I am pleased the project is not going forward in Southeast Missouri because of the risk of losing our markets," Mayer said. But he added that "genetically modified seeds hold promise for mankind and increased income for farmers. We need to continue to explore genetically modified seeds."

Riceland Vice President Bill Reed also spoke at Worley's farm and said he was glad the project is not going forward in Southeast Missouri.

"We are trying to get legislation together to keep genetically modified rice out of Missouri," Worley said. "We had a good turnout and it was a good meeting."

Anheuser-Busch Co. of St. Louis and Riceland Foods of Stuttgart, Ark., had urged federal regulators to deny a permit requested by Ventria to grow 150 acres of genetically modified rice on David Herbst's farm in order to produce human proteins used in drugs.

Herbst maintained the project was worthwhile and that contamination could be controlled. He said biopharming could have opened up new markets for rice.

Riceland Foods, the world's largest rice miller and marketer, is concerned its customers don't want to risk buying genetically modified rice. Anheuser-Busch, the nation's No. 1 buyer of rice and the largest brewer, said it would not buy Missouri rice if genetically modified, drug-making crops are allowed to be grown in the state.

According to the Associated Press, Anheuser-Busch dropped its threat to boycott Missouri's rice crop after Ventria agreed Friday to grow its genetically engineered rice at least 120 miles away from commercial rice farms in Southeast Missouri.

"I am pleased that Anheuser Busch and Ventria have reached a fair compromise that furthers cutting-edge life-sciences technology while protecting current markets for Missouri rice farmers," Gov. Matt Blunt said in a press release Friday.

The agreement was brokered by Blunt and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo.

"I am very proud that friends have come together in good faith and reached an agreement that addresses all concerns while permitting this critical technology to find a welcome home here in Missouri," Bond said in a press release Friday.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau, who has been a strong supporter of new technologies for value-added agricultural products, sent a letter to Blunt earlier Friday.

"However, the market realities that have been presented to me by Riceland Foods, Anheuser-Busch, my rice producers, lenders and suppliers dictate that I must oppose the production of genetically modified rice in Southeast Missouri in crop year 2005," Emerson said.

The Missouri Farm Bureau supports Ventria, which is moving to Northwest Missouri State University to be the anchor tenant of a new center for plant-made pharmaceuticals.

Ventria's president, Scott Deeter, has said fears of contamination are overblown because the company intends to use "a totally closed system of production" with a plant that pollinates itself. He also said the rice could be engineered to produce proteins that have the potential to address health issues like severe dehydration due to diarrhea, which kills more than 1.3 million children under the age of 5 annually worldwide.

Mayer said Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Fred Ferrell is working with Ventria to select a producer near Lamar north of Joplin to grow genetically modified rice.

U.S. Rice Producers Association President Chris Williams, a Poplar Bluff rice farmer, told the Southeast Missourian the agreement is a positive development, but he still has concerns.

"We wonder why rice producers weren't involved in the discussions or negotiations. Nobody included us in any of this, and that was disappointing," said Williams, who hopes other big buyers like Riceland, Gerber and Kellogg will continue to buy Missouri rice.

"We're pleased that they're moving120 miles from us. We'd have been more pleased if it was 1,000 miles," said Sonny Martin, a Bernie rice farmer who is chairman of the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council.

Herbst is glad Ventria is staying in Missouri.

"This is a tremendous victory for the future of agriculture in Missouri," Herbst said.

7. Farmers tout benefits of using biotech crops

Chris Clayton, Omaha World-Herald (Nebraska), April 21, 2005

As spring planting begins, few changes in Midlands corn and soybeans crops are obvious to the naked eye. Farmers will tell you, however, that in the past 10 years, biotechnology has changed everything.

More than 85 percent of the soybeans and more than 50 percent of the corn crop this year will have at least one biotech trait. And although critics continue to await a food catastrophe, no one can cite any health problems related to genetically modified foods.

"We have had these biotech products on the shelf for 10 years now, and they have proven to be safe," said Leon Corzine, an Illinois farmer and the president of the National Corn Growers Association.

Bill Horan, an advocate for pharmaceutical crops who farms near Rockwell City, Iowa, said biotechnology has improved farmers' lives.

When he was young, Horan said, he spent much of his summer hoeing weeds from soybean fields. That's rarely necessary now, because Roundup Ready soybeans allow farmers to apply herbicides without harming the crop.

"My children didn't have to spend all summer with a hoe in their hands," Horan said. "The technology gave my family time."

Biotech proponents' efforts to sell the public on the crops' merits suffered another setback -- the third in five years -- last December, when Syngenta AG discovered that it had mislabeled bags of biotech seed sold to farmers in four states. The USDA fined the company $ 375,000 this month, and European officials have demanded that the United States test all corn products before shipping.

The United States exports more than $ 450 million in corn products to Europe, so a key export market could be lost if European officials are unsatisfied with the testing. In 2003, officials had to destroy 500,000 bushels of soybeans in Nebraska because of cross-contamination in seed produced by the company Prodigene.

In 2000, corn from seed called StarLink, which was not approved for human consumption, was incorrectly commingled with other grain. That error led to recalls and a loss of Asian markets.

The balancing act of driving innovation while reducing risk to markets has fueled the creation of groups such as Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products, or BIGMAP, at Iowa State University, which held its second symposium on biotechnology safety this week.

Industry and university researchers say the U.S. public pays little attention to genetically modified products, even though nearly 75 percent of food contains some ingredients with biotech traits.

"There's some general interest of bioengineered food but very little knowledge among consumers," said Cheryl Toner, a spokeswoman for the International Food Information Council.

That could change as more genetically modified products are marketed as more healthful choices. Regulators are seeing more proposals to alter amino acids in crops, extract allergens from peanuts, change foods' oil content, and improve baking or processing qualities.

"It's remarkable," said Michael Wach, who reviews permits for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Everything is up for grabs now. You name a gene and people are thinking about tweaking it."

Though no one has successfully marketed a final product, pharmaceutical crops continue to make waves. Fewer than 50 acres were field-tested nationally last year, but when a small California company proposed growing pharmaceutical rice in Missouri, brewer AnheuserBusch said it would not buy the rice for its beer for fear of losing overseas markets. A compromise was reached this week.

In Nebraska, a Minnesota firm, NuTein Cos., is meeting with farmers and city officials on a pilot program to extract lutein from alfalfa. Lutein is used to prevent eye degeneration.

Todd Leonard, chief executive officer of the company, said NuTein has identified other proteins and amino acids that can be extracted from alfalfa. NuTein is in discussions with Nebraska and two other states about its expansion plans.

"We're in the final stages of picking a site," said Leonard, who will meet with Gov. Dave Heineman this week about the project.

So much is changing in plant genetics that the USDA is broadening its definition of biotech plants that should fall under the agency's oversight. New proposed rules are expected this summer.

"With the things coming into our office, we know we need to change under our regulatory umbrella," Wach said at the Iowa State conference.

Jack Bobo, deputy chief of the U.S. State Department's biotechnology and textile trade policy division, has dealt with the consequences of the Syngenta incident. "I don't get through many days now without addressing that issue."

"If they act like this what when something this small happens, what are they going to do when a real food crisis occurs?" Bobo asked.

Germany's minister of consumer protection was quoted in a German newspaper as saying that the Syngenta mistake was "unbelievable sloppiness" on the part of U.S. regulators. The minister said Europe must set a strong precedent that it will not tolerate such mistakes or the United States' "lax position" on regulating biotechnology.

Nevertheless, the European Union last week approved 26 products with biotech traits for importation in processed feeds. Bobo said he believes that European tolerance of biotechnology will grow, which will lead to more efforts to move biotech products into Africa and other developing areas.

Wach said companies must self-regulate, and there is little more the USDA can do to improve regulatory controls.

"Can you regulate human error?" Wach asked. "You can punish companies that have sloppy internal practices, and that is what has happened."

Nearly half of all biotech research is occurring outside the United States, and later this year an advisory group in Japan will meet to talk about standard biotechnology regulations. One of the issues is whether to allow imports with trace elements of unapproved products, which would eliminate problems such as those caused in the Syngenta situation.

"We are shooting ourselves in the foot if we do anything that endangers the confidence in U.S. agriculture by the consumers and internationally," Wach said.

8. US Corn Grower Official Cites Japan Biotech Qualms

Reuters, April 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - Japan is seeking further assurance from the United States thatan unapproved biotech corn strain accidentally mixed with US grain shipmentswas not a risk to people, animals or plants, a senior official of a USindustry group told Reuters Tuesday.

Japanese corn buyers have slowed purchases due to fears they could facemillions of dollars in losses if their cargoes contain Bt10 -- an unauthorizedstrain of genetically modified corn made by Swiss agrochemicals group SyngentaAG . The maize mix-up occurred between 2001 and 2004.

National Corn Growers Association Chief Executive Officer Rick Tolman saidJapan wanted assurances from the US Food and Drug Administration about the safety of the Bt10 corn strain in food and feed.

"Japan is looking for a strong statement from the FDA on this beingapproved," Tolman said in an interview after meeting with top Bush administrationofficials.

But Tolman said the FDA does not have oversight in the Syngenta case.

Both the US Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have concluded that the Bt10 strain does not pose a danger to people, animals or plants.

USDA officials were expected to seek clarification from Japan on what exactly Tokyo wanted. Tolman said the issue "should be resolved shortly."

Tolman said Tokyo was also close to deciding whether to begin testing for Bt10 in US corn shipments.

"Syngenta has delivered tests to Japan and they are currently looking at the tests to verify them and make sure that it is what they want to do," he said.

Earlier this month, Europe blocked imports of US maize animal feed and grains unless there was proof the shipments did not contain the biotech strain.

The European Union this week approved the Syngenta tests, enabling imports of US maize animal feed and grains to resume.

"They (USDA) reassured us that things were pretty well straightened out with the EU," he said.

USDA has fined Syngenta $375,000 for the mistake. The EPA was expected to conclude its own separate investigation soon.

Tolman and other members of the US Agriculture Department's trade advisory committee met with USDA Secretary Mike Johanns and other government officials to discuss the Bt10 corn incident and other trade issues.

Story by Randy Fabi

9. US Government and Biotech Firm Deceive Public on GM Corn Mix-up

By Jeffrey M. Smith, author of the international bestseller, Seeds of Deception.
Institute for Responsible Technology Spilling the Beans, April, 2005

"This seems to be yet another display of deceit, secrecy, incompetence and arrogance from the GM [genetic modification] industry." This condemnation from Francis Blake of the organic farmers association in Europe was one of several choice comments hurled at the biotech firm Syngenta after it was revealed that their unapproved genetically engineered corn variety had contaminated the food supply for four years. Furthermore, after it was made public, both Syngenta and the US government misled the public about its composition and safety. The German consumer protection minister described the whole affair as "Unbelievable sloppiness!" The European commissioner for health and consumer affairs said, "We deplore the unauthorized imports of this corn."

The controversy, which may eventually cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is centered on Syngenta?s Bt10, an experimental, unapproved corn variety genetically, engineered to produce its own pesticide. In mid December 2004, the company informed the US government that it had just learned that the corn had been mislabeled in the 1990s as Bt11, an approved variety. From 2001-2004, about 14,000 bags of Bt10 seed were grown on 37,000 acres in the US and the resultant 165,000 tons of corn was sold as food and feed in the US and abroad.

This was not good news for the US government, which vigorously promotes GM crops and downplays health and environmental concerns. Bt10 is technically illegal, since it is a pesticide producing crop not registered by the EPA. News of its contamination ironically coincided with the public comment period for an FDA proposal, designed to calm public fears if unapproved GM varieties were discovered in the food supply. It also came at a time when the US was challenging the EU's regulations on genetically engineered crops in the World Trade Organization.

The FDA, EPA, and USDA, along with the White House, decided to keep everything secret?for the time being?while they investigated. They reviewed seven information packets received from Syngenta from Jan. 7 to March 10, 2005. In late March, the story was leaked to the journal Nature. When their reporter called to check the facts, the government was forced to go public.

When the story broke, federal agencies assured the public that there was nothing to worry about. They reasoned that the pesticide that Bt10 produces is the exact same protein produced by Bt11. Since Bt11 is approved and considered safe, Bt10 must likewise be harmless to health and the environment. Jeff Stein, head of regulatory affairs at Syngenta said, "What makes this somewhat unique is that Bt10 and Bt11 are physically identical and the proteins are identical."

While these assurances were accepted by the public and repeated in media reports, experts in genetic engineering knew the statements to be misleading. As their concerns were made public, Syngenta backed down from its original position and said Bt10 "differs from approved seeds only where the foreign genetic material is placed in the plant's genome." They further qualified "that the Bt 10 corn was almost biologically identical to Bt 11."

The "almost" is significant.

When the corn was genetically modified, scientists altered a gene from a soil bacterium, attached an antibiotic resistant marker gene and a promoter to turn them on, and multiplied this "genetic cassette" thousands of times. These were then shot through a gene gun into thousands of corn cells, in the hopes that some of the genes made it into the DNA of some of the cells. Scientists do not know which cells get the genes, so they douse them with an antibiotic, killing almost all of them. The few that survive, do so because the genetic cassette made it into their DNA, allowing the antibiotic resistant marker gene to protect the cell from the antibiotic.

The inserted genes function differently depending on where they end up in the DNA. Natural genes along the DNA can also get deleted, destroyed, relocated or mutated by the insertion process, and several genes or gene fragments can be inserted simultaneously. Recent studies suggest that the DNA of GM crops may typically contain hundreds or thousands of separate mutations, not found in natural varieties. Thus, identical genes inserted into the same type of corn will each bring unique and unpredictable risks. According to an FDA document, these "unintended changes" are one reason why biotech companies submit safety information about each GM variety, even if they are engineered to create the "same intended new trait" as a GM crop that is already approved. The risks associated with Bt10 are therefore not the same as Bt11, but this critical difference was not acknowledged by Syngenta or the US government.

They also ignored recent evidence showing that genes inserted into the DNA are unstable. Their sequence can rearrange over time. Government scientists in France and Belgium reported that Syngenta's Bt11 had "rearrangements, truncations and unexpected insertions." In fact, its DNA was contaminated by Bt176, another Syngenta corn variety that was also found to be unstable. (Bt176 was quietly removed from the US market soon after it was discovered that the plant's pollen was particularly lethal to monarch butterflies. When Bt176 was the exclusive diet fed to a herd of cows in Germany, several became seriously ill and twelve died. Syngenta partially compensated the farmer?s losses, but critics? demands for an in-depth investigation were not met. )

According to tests conducted 11 years ago, Bt10 produces only about 1/7th the amount of the pesticidal protein as Bt11. It is unclear whether this is due to the placement of the gene, genetic rearrangements or other reasons. Furthermore, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported that the Bt11 produced four separate Bt proteins, each of different sizes. Some scientists suggest that the toxic protein may be "processed or degraded in Bt11." It is not clear whether Bt10 exhibits similar mysterious characteristics.

The US government did not discuss these issues with Bt10, in part because they don't even deal with them for approved varieties. Their safety protocols ignore these and many other sources of potential side- effects. An Austrian government report concluded that claims of safety for Bt11 were based on assumptions, not scientific evidence. According to the Institute of Science in Society, "To date there are no scientific studies on the long-term effects of eating Bt 11 and no toxicological testing on the whole GM corn plant. Tests for allergic reactions to Bt 11 were insufficient and relied on theoretical argument rather than scientific evidence." Even those theoretical arguments have been called invalid, since the Bt11 protein has several characteristics that increase the likelihood that it is allergenic. The Bt10 protein may similarly be allergenic.

One characteristic of Bt10 that is not shared with Bt11 is its antibiotic resistant marker (ARM) gene that codes for resistance to ampicillin. When this fact surfaced a week after the US government and Syngenta assured the world that the two varieties were identical, it drew anger and outrage. According to Nature, this is "a difference that most experts agree is of some significance." Failure to mention it was most certainly pre-meditated.

Antibiotic Resistant Markers May Create Super Diseases

The use of ARM genes is highly controversial. Practically every medical organization that has looked at GM crop safety has expressed concern, including the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, UK Royal Society, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Pasteur Institute, European Food Safety Authority, and Codex Alimentarius. The British Medical Association even cited ARM genes as one of their reasons for proposing a ban of GM crops.

The fear is that ARM genes will transfer to pathogenic bacteria in the gut or environment and unintentionally create a super disease that is untreatable by antibiotics. Such hard-to-kill infectious bacteria are already a serious problem, exacerbated by the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. According to the FDA website, such infections "increase risk of death, and are often associated with prolonged hospital stays, and sometimes complications. These might necessitate removing part of a ravaged lung, or replacing a damaged heart valve."

The first time the FDA looked at ARM genes, it was in response to plans by Calgene in the early 1990s to use one that was resistant to the medicine kanamycin, in their GM FlavrSavr tomato. The Division of Anti-Infective Drug Products was appalled. In a December 1992 memo that was later made public by a lawsuit, the division emphasized in all capital letters, "IT WOULD BE A SERIOUS HEALTH HAZARD TO INTRODUCE A GENE THAT CODES FOR ANTI-BIOTIC RESISTANCE INTO THE NORMAL FLORA OF THE GENERAL POPULATION." After presenting this to their superiors at the agency, the division director sent it to a colleague with a cover letter that said, "The Division comes down fairly squarely against the [kanamycin] gene marker in the genetically engineered tomatoes. I know this could have serious ramifications." For emphasis, his letter was entitled, "The tomatoes that will eat Akron."

This was a period of time, however, where concerns by FDA scientists about genetically engineered products were routinely ignored by the agency?'s political appointees, who had been mandated by the White House to promote the biotech industry (see Seeds of Deception, chapters 3, 4, and 5). The FDA had even created a special position for Michael Taylor, a former outside attorney for Monsanto and later their vice president, to oversee US policy development. Thus, in spite of their scientists? concerns, and in spite of the fact that other less risky but more expensive methods were available, the FDA allowed the use of ARM genes. Their website claims, "It is highly unlikely that antibiotic resistance genes could be transferred from plant genomes to gut microorganisms." They had accepted industry assurances that DNA was destroyed during digestion and gene transfer was therefore not a problem. The only human feeding study on GM crops ever conducted, published in February 2004, overturned this baseless assumption. Not only did altered genes in GM soy survive digestion, they spontaneously transferred into the DNA of gut bacteria in human subjects. No one has yet commissioned a study to see if ARM genes also transfer.

The FDA does not entirely deny the possibility that ARM genes might create super diseases by rendering antibiotics powerless. They acknowledge, therefore, that ARM genes would be more risky if they threatened the use of popular and important antibiotics. Since kanamycin is not used much by doctors anymore, they reasoned that it wouldn't be too dangerous if kanamycin ARM genes were used. Most of the GM crops on the market today use Kanamycin resistant genes. But ampicillin is widely used; it is the drug of choice for several types of infections. If an ARM gene promoted ampicillin-resistant infections, it would be serious.

While the FDA simply discusses risks associated with gene altered crops, it does not establish any requirements for the biotech industry, just voluntary guidelines. In Europe, they are not so feeble. In April 2004, the European Food Safety Authority declared that ampicillin resistant marker genes "should be restricted to field trials and not be present in genetically modified plants placed on the market." At that time, about 79,000 acres of GM corn were planted in Spain -- the only EU country growing GM crops commercially. About two thirds of the corn was a variety that used an ampicillin marker. The government promptly banned it, setting back the biotech industry's small foothold in Europe. The significance of this was certainly not lost on Syngenta. It was their corn variety Bt176 that was banned.

Despite Syngenta's intimate knowledge of Europe's disdain for ampicillin-resistant markers, and despite the fact that an estimated 1000 tons of Bt10 was shipped to the EU from 2001-2004, and that batches of the Bt10 were also mistakenly sent to France and Spain "for research purposes," the company and the US government left out the fact that Bt10 contains an ampicillin-resistant gene. When challenged on this omission by the journal Nature, a Syngenta spokesperson offered, "it wasn't relevant to the health and safety discussion." According to a USDA official, Syngenta similarly did not inform the US government about the contentious ampicillin issue when they first reported the contamination in December 2004. The information came out sometime over the following months.

It is telling that Syngenta, a Swiss company that was responsible for illegal GM varieties entering the EU, reported the contamination to US authorities but not to the Europeans. Likewise, the US government also withheld the information from their EU counterparts. According to the German publication Spiegal, "The nonchalant behavior of the Americans infuriated the environmental protection authorities in Brussels and Berlin more than anything else."

On April 15, the EU Commission voted overwhelmingly to enact "emergency measures. . . in order to achieve the high level of health protection chosen in the Community." Since imports of food-grade GM corn has been virtually nil for years, the commission placed restrictions on the corn products from the US that are used for animal feed?corn gluten meal and brewers grain. The US had shipped 3.5 million tons of this to the EU in 2004 for about $450 million. But all shipments were halted by April 17, when they were required to be certified free of Bt10.

Japanese authorities have not yet ruled on whether they will also require certification of US corn imports, but many Japanese buyers have already delayed their purchases from the US or switched to non- U.S. sources, especially for food grade. Japan is the biggest foreign market for US corn, importing approximately 4.4 million tons for food and 12 million tons for feed. South Korea, the sixth largest importer of US grain, has also discussed the possibility of requiring tests.

According to Spiegel, "In addition to the ban on feed, the US faces recalls, actions for liability and above all enormous damage to the image of US corn." The German publication said that the cost of the Bt10 contamination could be much higher than the $1 billion price tag for StarLink, "especially if until-now lethargic US consumers begin to question the safety of genetically modified varieties of grain." StarLink was another unapproved GM corn discovered in the food supply in 2000.

The editors of Nature have urged European regulators to "pursue their own investigation," since "their US equivalents show little sign of rising to the challenge." Friends of the Earth, the Third World Network and others, demand that Syngenta pay for the costs of testing their products. , And everyone appears to be calling for Syngenta to provide their safety studies, molecular characterization, genetic profile, and complete history of the planting and shipments of Bt10. They have not been forthcoming. This is not the first time Syngenta was unresponsive to government and consumer demands. In 2000, they imported an illegal corn variety into New Zealand and, according to member of parliament Jeanette Fitzsimons, "refused to allow our Parliament to see lab records or talk to the company who did the testing that showed Bt contamination." She said. "Syngenta has developed a reputation for thinking it is above the law, and for refusing to provide regulatory bodies with information that is needed to assess whether its activities are in the public interest." Syngenta is one of the five agricultural biotech companies and the World's largest agro-chemical company. Their sales were $6.6 billion last year. They settled with the US for the Bt10 contamination by agreeing to pay a fine of $375,000 and to "teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules."

Both a Syngenta representative and a USDA spokesperson claimed that since Syngenta promptly reported the contamination to the government as soon it was discovered, it shows "that the system is working." ,

With that criterion, the system also appears to be working in China, where it was revealed on April 13, 2005 that about 1,000 tons of unapproved GM rice were sold locally and possibly shipped worldwide. Let's hope the system doesn't work quite so well for Ventria. The company has requested a permit from the USDA to plant rice in Missouri that is genetically engineered with human genes in order to create pharmaceutical drugs.

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