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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  April 2005

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE April 2005

Subject:

Field Testing of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States

From:

Carmelo Ruiz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 18 Apr 2005 05:16:26 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (189 lines)

--- Carmelo Ruiz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2005 05:09:47 -0700 (PDT)
> Subject: [Carmelo] Field Testing of Genetically
> Engineered Crops in the United States
>
>
> http://www.texpirg.org/TX.asp?id2=16715&id3=TX&
>
> Raising Risk : Field Testing of Genetically
> Engineered
> Crops in the United States
>
> April 2005
>
> TexPIRG Education Fund
>
> Executive Summary | News Release
>
> Download the full report. (PDF, 2 MB)
> Executive Summary
>
> Although genetically engineered crops are still
> poorly
> understood, corporations and universities are
> growing
> them experimentally in the open environment with
> little oversight and public notification. Never
> before
> in the history of the planet have we been able to
> transfer genes across natural species barriers,
> creating unheard of combinations like tomatoes with
> fish genes, or even pigs with human genes. Contrary
> to
> assertions made by proponents of the technology,
> genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists
> cannot
> control where the gene is inserted into the host’s
> genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the
> gene in the new genetically engineered organism. As
> a
> result, genetic engineering raises a host of
> ecological and human health risks, and these
> concerns
> have not been adequately addressed.
>
> The biotechnology industry began field testing
> genetically engineered plants and crops in the
> 1980s.
> Field tests are supposed to determine the impact of
> the new crops on the environment and how well the
> plants function. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
> (USDA), however, failed to adequately regulate these
> field tests from the start, and its oversight has
> weakened over time. An analysis by the General
> Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability
> Office) in 1988 roundly criticized shortcomings in
> USDA’s oversight, echoing calls by prominent
> microbiologists, ecologists, and others that certain
> regulatory decisions were “scientifically
> indefensible.” USDA has continued to weaken its
> oversight of the technology despite little empirical
> evidence on which to base such decisions.
>
> USDA’s inadequate oversight of these field tests
> poses
> immediate risks. Nonnative organisms can invade and
> degrade ecosystems. Plants engineered to produce
> proteins with insecticidal properties may damage the
> soil or harm so-called non-target species. Plants
> engineered to be virus resistant can cause new viral
> strains to evolve through recombination or make
> existing viruses more severe. And if field
> experiments
> are not properly monitored, genetic pollution can
> result, putting farmers’ livelihoods, the
> environment,
> and human health at risk. In essence, our
> environment
> is serving as the laboratory for widespread
> experimentation of genetically engineered organisms
> with profound risks that can never be recalled once
> released.
>
> Moreover, USDA has failed to require adequate data
> collection on field tests of genetically engineered
> crops, leaving the true impacts of these new
> creations
> still largely unknown. According to a review of the
> 85
> most recent reports of field tests available in
> 1995,
> some of the most fundamental tests necessary to
> determine ecological effects, such as impacts on
> nontarget insects, were never even conducted. As the
> authors of the report concluded, this is a classic
> example of a “don’t look, don’t find” regulatory
> framework. Similarly, the National Academy of
> Sciences
> found serious shortcomings in USDA’s oversight,
> saying
> the agency at times “lacked scientific rigor,
> balance,
> transparency” and chastising the agency for
> “inadequate expertise.”
>
> Key Report Findings
> Raising Risk examines USDA data on field tests of
> genetically engineered crops in order to document
> the
> geographic breadth of these open air experiments and
> to demonstrate the implications of USDA’s inadequate
> oversight.
>
> Key findings include:
>
> - Between 1987 and 2004, USDA received 11,090
> applications for field releases of genetically
> engineered crops. USDA has approved 10,296 of these
> applications, allowing 18,608 field releases
> comprised
> of 47,219 field test sites. Overall, USDA has served
> as a rubber stamp for applications to conduct field
> tests, rejecting only 3.6 percent of all
> applications
> submitted.
>
> - As of December 2004, 14 states and territories
> have
> hosted more than 1,000 field test sites. They are
> Hawaii (5,413), Illinois (5,092), Iowa (4,659),
> Puerto
> Rico (3,483), California (1,964), Nebraska (1,960),
> Pennsylvania (1,707), Minnesota (1,701), Texas
> (1,494), Indiana (1,489), Idaho (1,272), Wisconsin
> (1,246), Georgia (1,051), and Mississippi (1,008).
>
> - Since 1991, USDA has received 240 requests for 418
> field releases of crops engineered to produce
> pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, or other
> so-called biopharmaceuticals; the number of
> requested
> field releases of “biopharm” crops increased from 22
> in 2003 to 55 in 2004.
>
> - The ten crops authorized for the most field
> releases
> are corn, soybean, cotton, potato, tomato, wheat,
> creeping bentgrass, alfalfa, beet, and rice.
>
> - USDA authorized field tests on several crops for
> the
> first time in 2003 and 2004, including American
> chestnut, American elm, avocado, banana, eucalyptus,
> marigold, safflower, sorghum, and sugarbeet.
>
> - Between 1987 through 2004, Monsanto (or a
> wholly-owned subsidiary) submitted the most
> applications for field tests (4,279). The ten
> universities submitting the most requests to conduct
> field tests are Iowa State (129), University of
> Idaho
> (102), Rutgers (102), University of Kentucky (80),
> University of Florida (78), Oregon State (69),
> Stanford (63), Michigan State (62), University of
> Arizona (55), and North Carolina State (52).
>
> -The percentage of field tests conducted with genes
> considered Confidential Business Information and
> thus
> hidden from public scrutiny has increased
> dramatically, rising from 0 percent in 1987 to 70
> percent in 2004.

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
Director, Proyecto de Bioseguridad http://www.bioseguridad.blogspot.com
Research Associate, Institute for Social Ecology http://www.social-ecology.org/
Senior Fellow, Environmental Leadership Program http://www.elpnet.org/

http://carmeloruiz.blogspot.com
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/carmeloruiz/



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