Discovery of Unapproved GE Wheat Underscores Poor Control over Field Trials
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
June 3 2013
Dear friends and colleagues,
Re: Discovery of Unapproved GE Wheat Underscores Poor Control over Field Trials
In the wake of the announcement by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on 29 May 2013 that unapproved genetically engineered (GE) glyphosate-resistant wheat plants (developed by Monsanto) were found in a farm in Oregon, there has been a growing demand for answers on how this could have happened and strong critique on the (in)adequacy of control over field trials of GE crops.
There have been 22 documented cases of unauthorized releases of GE varieties e.g. of corn and rice over the past two decades, according to a study by the University of California, Riverside, USA. What makes this most recent incident especially alarming is that unlike GE corn and soy, GE wheat hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
In this particular case, Monsanto was authorized to field test its GE wheat in 16 states from 1998 to 2005. The company claims that it followed rigorous procedures in closing the project such as forcing researchers to burn or ship back leftover seeds. Obviously, this wasn’t enough.
Field trials are environmental releases of engineered transgenes and should be regulated stringently as such. But are they? The USDA recorded 712 violations of its regulations from 2003-2007, including 98 that could lead to a possible release of unauthorized crops, and 21 major non-compliances from 1995-2011, five of which involved Monsanto.
A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2008 concluded that the USDA lacked the resources to conduct routine testing on areas adjacent to the GE crops to monitor any escape of the transgenes and instead relied on biotechnology companies to voluntarily provide test results.
The U.S. has some 1,000 field trials for new GE crops every year, most in multiple sites. The protocols for containing those genes are lax, argue critics. “I would not be at all surprised if there are a number of experimental genes that have contaminated and are happily being passed along at low levels in the food supplies of various crops already, but nobody’s testing,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. “It’s really a ‘don’t look, don’t tell’ situation. We just really don’t know”.
With best wishes,
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
Website: www.biosafety-info.net and www.twn.my
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