7 March 2003
AGENCY ‘IGNORING ITS ADVISORS’/AMERICAN CONSUMERS TO SUE US GOVT OVER GE CROPS
"[pest] resistance is certain to arise... the only question is when. Farmers can delay resistance by planting larger refuges. So Gould and ten other members of a scientific review board that looked at Monsanto's application urged the EPA to require a refuge size of at least 50% of the total area planted with corn. In its ruling, however, the EPA sided with three dissenting review-board members, and sanctioned the 20% refuge size that Monsanto had requested."
*American consumers to sue US govt over GE crops
*AGENCY 'IGNORING ITS ADVISERS' OVER BT MAIZE
American consumers to sue US govt over GE crops
Stuff Online, New Zealand, 06 March 2003 (shortened)
WASHINGTON: A coalition of US environmental and consumer groups has threatened to sue the US Agriculture Department unless it places a moratorium on planting biotech crops genetically engineered to produce medicinal and industrial products. At issue is the worry that some new kinds of bio-engineered crops could inadvertently contaminate corn, soybeans and other nearby crops grown for human and livestock food.
A coalition of 11 groups, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Center for Food Safety, accused the USDA of allowing the experimental crops to be planted without conducting required environmental risk assessments. Without such analyses, the USDA "is risking permanent contamination of the environment and our food supply with numerous drugs and chemicals," said Peter Jenkins, attorney for the Center for Food Safety. USDA officials were not immediately available for comment.
Last year, about 300 acres of American farmland in Hawaii, Iowa and other states were planted with experimental pharmaceutical crops. The crops have attracted new attention since late last year when ProdiGene, a small Texas biotech company, paid about $3 million in fines and costs to settle USDA allegations that the firm accidentally contaminated food crops with its pharmaceutical corn. The activist coalition said that incident showed the new crops pose a danger to the nation's food supply. The groups said they will file a lawsuit against USDA, unless the government imposed a temporary ban by early May. the seeds."
AGENCY 'IGNORING ITS ADVISERS' OVER BT MAIZE
Nature 422, 5 (2003), March 6, 2003
San Francisco - A strain of maize that is genetically modified to fight rootworm --a major crop pest -- has won approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency. But scientists who were consulted before the 25 February decision say, according to this story, that the agency ignored their advice and is doing too little to ensure that insects don't develop resistance to the insecticide produced by the plant.
Last October, a scientific review board recommended that the strain should only be grown if farmers plant an equal area of non-transgenic maize next to it. Such a stipulation would have undermined the commercial viability of the strain, however, and the EPA has rejected it, saying that a 20% "refuge" of non-transgenic maize will suffice.
The decision has drawn immediate fire from members of the review board. Fred Gould, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, was quoted as saying, "They are putting the issue of sustainability on the back burner."
The story explains that the various strains of Bt bacteria collectively produce some 40 classes of insect toxin, and the new variety of maize incorporates one that attacks only the corn rootworm and its close relatives. But it also produces much less toxin than existing Bt crops --increasing the prospect that insect populations will have time to develop resistance to the toxin. To mitigate this risk, refuges of non-Bt varieties are planted so that susceptible insects can multiply. These then mate with resistant insects and dilute out the resistance genes in the next generation.
But this strategy only works if the transgenic plants produce enough toxin to ensure that only a very small number of insects (which might spawn resistant offspring) survive, say Gould and other critics of the EPA decision. If the crop produces too little Bt toxin, the survivors will include a large number of partially resistant insects who are likely to find each other and enrich the gene pool for resistance, they say.
Whereas established Bt maize varieties produce high doses of toxin, the new variety kills only about half the rootworm larvae, according to data provided by Monsanto to the EPA. This is enough to help farmers, Monsanto claims, because it is just as effective as pesticide treatments and has the advantages of saving time and doing less damage to the environment.
But with such a low mortality rate, resistance is certain to arise, the strain's critics say --the only question is when. Farmers can delay resistance by planting larger refuges. So Gould and ten other members of a scientific review board that looked at Monsanto's application urged the EPA to require a refuge size of at least 50% of the total area planted with corn.
In its ruling, however, the EPA sided with three dissenting review-board members, and sanctioned the 20% refuge size that Monsanto had requested.