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[SANET-MG] USDA gives Syngenta a small fine over Bt10 corn

USDA fined Syngenta "chump change"over the spread of Bt10 corn. The
company has been stonewalling on providing molecular analysis of Bt10
corn so that the levels of contamination can be measured independently.
From the original registration of Bt11 in 1995 , Bt10 came from the
same strain of corn. It is very perplexing that they maintained large
quantities of Bt10 seed stocks knowing that the strain was inferior to
Bt11 in production of toxin. Syngenta is making crop biotechnology  look
bad.Two current articles are provided below.
April 9, 2005 ny times
U.S. Fines Swiss Company Over Sale of Altered Seed

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, April 8 - Syngenta, the Swiss agrochemicals
company, was fined $375,000 by the United States Department of
Agriculture for inadvertently selling unapproved genetically altered
corn seed, the company said Friday.

The Department of Agriculture also required Syngenta to develop a
training program to keep the mix-up in seeds from happening again, the
company said.

"We welcome the settlement with the U.S.D.A. and the government's
conclusion that Syngenta's misidentification of Bt 10 corn, while a
regrettable mistake, does not pose any risks to consumers, public health
or the environment," said Mike Mack, chief operating officer of Syngenta
Seeds, a unit of Syngenta in Golden Valley, Minn.

Markus Payer, a spokesman for Syngenta in Basel, Switzerland, said the
European Union had also asked for details on the mix-up in the
unapproved seed, Bt 10. On Tuesday, the European Commission said it
thought that about 1,000 metric tons (1,102 tons) of the unauthorized
corn entered union countries as animal feed, corn flour and corn oil.

The European Union, which has strict limits on the use of genetically
modified crops, also asked Syngenta how to identify corn grown from the
Bt 10 seed, Mr. Payer said.

Syngenta reiterated Friday that the Bt 10 corn was almost biologically
identical to Bt 11, another genetically modified corn seed that has been
approved in both the United States and Europe.

"This has no impact on the safety of the corn," Syngenta said in a
statement Friday.

Environmentalists, however, say that the unapproved corn could promote
resistance to antibiotics, a crucial difference between Bt 10 and Bt 11.

Syngenta says it believes that the problem began with an inadvertent
switching of the two types of corn seed by its researchers in the United
States in the mid-1990's when some Bt 10 seeds were probably mislabeled
as Bt 11, Mr. Payer said.

After Bt 11, which produces a protein toxic to the European corn borer,
won approval in the United States and Europe, the company set aside the
development of Bt 10.

About 14,000 bags of Bt 10 seeds, or enough to plant 37,000 acres, were
sold from 2001 to 2004, mainly to farmers in the United States, but also
in Canada and Argentina, Mr. Payer said. Farmers could have produced an
estimated 150,000 tons of corn from this area, Mr. Payer said. Assuming
export of one-fifth of that, which is the overall ratio of corn exported
to the European Union, then the amount of Bt 10 corn that ended up in
the European countries was probably quite small, he said.

Syngenta said it became aware of the problem late last year while
conducting a review of breeding lines in the United States that were
supposed to be planted with Bt 11 seeds, Mr. Payer said.

The company could face more fines from the Environmental Protection
Agency, which is conducting its own investigation.

Swiss Biotech Company Settles Over Corn
Fri Apr 8, 5:58 PM ET   White House - AP Cabinet & State

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Swiss biotechnology company Syngenta said Friday it had
reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale
to farmers of a genetically engineered corn seed that had not been
approved by American regulators.

The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with
the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, it
would pay a fine of $375,000 and sponsor a compliance training conference.

It said the EPA and the USDA "have reviewed scientific information and
concluded that there are no human or animal health or environmental
concerns with Bt10 corn."

Bt10 corn is an experimental corn modified to resist bugs. Between 2001
and 2004 it was mistakenly supplied in small amounts as Bt11 corn, a
field corn approved for food and feed use and for cultivation in the
United States, Canada, Japan and other countries.

Syngenta discovered the mistake last December and reported it
immediately to federal authorities, as required by law.

Bt10 corn is spliced with bacteria genes to resist bugs without the need
for pesticides. It differs from approved seeds only where the foreign
genetic material is placed in the plant's genome, Syngenta said.

Syngenta said the unapproved corn could have seeded an estimated 37,000
acres, about one-one-hundredth of 1 percent of the annual U.S. corn
acreage. While it was possible that some Bt10 grain could have been
shipped overseas, the company said, amounts would have been very small.

Nearly half the nation's corn approved for market by the Agriculture
Department is genetically modified. But modified food products have
become a bitter trade issue between the United States and the European
Union, which has restricted genetically engineered imports.
While the U.S. agencies gave assurances that the mixup caused no health
or environmental risks, biotechnology critics cited the incident as an
example of how easy it is for genetically engineered seeds to become
intermixed with conventionally grown crops and contaminate food supplies.


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