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[SANET-MG] thousands of poorly monitored field tests including numerous pharm crops
New Study Reveals Thousands of Field Tests of Genetically Engineered
Crops Across U.S.
Publication: Environment Maine
Date: Thursday, August 18, 2005
PORTLAND- More than 47,000 field tests of genetically engineered crops
were authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 1987 and
2004 despite serious environmental threats and inadequate regulations in
place to monitor their impacts, according to a new report released today
by Environment Maine Research & Policy Center and Maine Organic Farmers
and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). Three hundred seventy-five of these
tests were conducted in Maine, mostly for genetically engineered potatoes.
Both the National Academy of Sciences and the General Accounting Office
have criticized the USDA for inadequate oversight and expertise in
authorizing the release of genetically engineered crops.
Nevertheless, this new study reveals substantial increases in 2003 and
2004 of testing of crops engineered to produce pharmaceutical and
industrial chemicals, as well as of many new crops never before released.
• The report, Raising Risk: Field Testing of Genetically Engineered
Crops in the U.S., highlights potential risks associated with the
release of genetically engineered plants. The results of large scale
field trials conducted over many years were just published in the March
2005 Proceedings of the Royal Society demonstrating adverse effects on
wildlife, but experiments conducted in the United States continue to be
piecemeal and short term. Scientists have criticized research in this
country as deliberately designed to hide any harm.
Coincidentally, this report is released on the heels of three Maine
towns, Kennebunk, Brooklin and Kennebunkport considering opposition to
genetically engineered organisms. Kennebunk selectmen rejected a
petition from citizens to place a ban on genetically engineered
organisms, Brooklin citizens voted in favor of a non-enforceable measure
to declare their town a GE Free Zone, and Kennebunkport is considering a
measure identical to Brooklin.
“Our environment is being used as a laboratory for widespread
experimentation on genetically engineered organisms with profound risks
that, once released, can never be recalled,” said Environment Maine
Advocate Matthew Davis. “Bt corn plants have been found to be toxic to
monarch butterflies and other non-target species. Until proper
safeguards are in place, this unchecked experiment should stop.”
Findings of the new Environment Maine Research & Policy Center report
• As of January 2005, the fourteen states and territories that have
hosted the greatest number of field test sites 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.
• Nearly 70% of all field tests conducted in the last year now contain
secret genes classified as “Confidential Business Information,” which
means that the public has no access to information about experiments
being conducted in their communities.
• The ten crops authorized for the greatest number of field releases are
corn, soybean, cotton, potato, tomato, wheat, creeping bentgrass,
alfalfa, beet, and rice. Potatoes have had 143 field releases in Maine .
• 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.
• These experimental genetically engineered crops are grown in the open
environment to test the outcome and environmental impact of certain gene
combinations. The groups charged that field testing genetically
engineered crops in such a widespread way poses serious threats to the
environment and neighboring farmers.
“For over a decade, MOFGA has called for the preparation of an
Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy
Act prior to any field testing or field release of GE plants or other
organisms. We're still waiting,” said Sharon Tisher, Chair of the MOFGA
Public Policy Committee. “Not only the distinguished National Academy of
Sciences, but also the staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior,
have raised serious questions about the risk of GE crops and animals
becoming harmful invasive species. Also, GE crops that present a risk of
genetic contamination of organic crops are a direct economic threat to
certified organic farms.”
A major goal of the field tests is to obtain information about potential
ecological risks associated with genetically engineered organisms.
However, independent reviews of the data collected by the USDA
demonstrate that very little information has been gathered. As a result,
despite the large number of field experiments that have occurred,
fundamental questions about their impact remain unanswered, including
long-term impacts on the soil and non-target species.
“The evidence continues to mount that the U.S. regulatory system is
based on the principle of ‘don’t look, don’t find,’” said Davis.
“Conducting field tests that are poorly designed is taking large risks
without any benefits.”
Environment Maine Research & Policy Center and MOFGA called for a
federal moratorium on genetically engineered foods unless:
* Independent testing demonstrates safety,
* Labeling for any products commercialized honors consumers’ right to
* The biotechnology corporations are held accountable for any harm
resulting from the products.
Environment Maine Research & Policy Center researches problems, proposes
policy solutions and educates the public about clean air, clean water
and open spaces.
MOFGA’s mission is to help farmers and gardeners grow organic food, to
protect the environment, and to recycle natural resources; to increase
local food production, to support rural communities, and to encourage
sustainable farm economies; and to illuminate for consumers the
connections between healthful food, environmentally sound farming
practices, and vital local economies.
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