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US Admits Exporting Illegal GE Corn

US Admits Exporting Illegal GE Corn: NZ Authorities Questioned

Authorities approving GE food imports into New Zealand are being questioned over the import of an illegal form of GE maize that US authorities say they have been accidentally selling and exporting for the last four years.

Announcements by US authorities and Syngenta published in Nature (see below) reveals that Bt11 maize seeds had become confused with Bt10- a form of GE maize not approved by authorities. By mistake Bt 10 has been sold in the US and exported overseas.

The US authorities have refused to say which countries may have imported the illegal seeds as food or for planting, but New Zealand/ Australian authorities have been asked to urgently investigate by GE Free NZ in food and environment.

Although the Bt10 crop is believed by Syngenta and US authorities promoting GE food to be 'safe', the fact that it was sold for years by accident only adds to concerns that biotechnology firms are losing control over their activities.

"It is worrying that our authorities have given the green light to over 20 GE foods for import to New Zealand but there is no monitoring or tracking of where it is ending up," says Jon Carapiet from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"We also have no system to effectively recall a GE food like this. It is a wake-up call that the biotech industry and authorities are failing to control their products," says Mr Carapiet.

" They are putting public health at risk and a much more serious failure of the system is on the cards."

The BT 10 and BT11 corn (maize) were modified with a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is inserted into the crop to act as a pesticide. Syngenta has US approval to sell a variety of Bt11 but between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta inadvertently produced and distributed several hundred tonnes of Bt10 corn - a different genetic modification that has not been approved. US Authorities have scrambled to research the safety of the product and now believe it is "ok" for sale.

" That may sound like a good thing to hear: but the reassurance is doubtful given their inadequate testing protocols, and it doesn't address the fundamental issue that the system has failed - potentially disastrously", says Jon Carapiet.

This incident confirms public and international concern that regulation of GE crops and food is not working. Australian / New Zealand Authorities should stop approvals of GE foods into the mainstream food supply.

Unfortunately FSANZ continue to approve more and more imported GE foods.

They are failing to respond to the inadequacy of their testing systems, management systems, tracking systems, or emergency-responses systems that would allow an illegal GE food to be pulled from the food supply. With such fundamental inadequacies we have a disaster in the making.

ENDS

Jon Carapiet 0210 507 681

http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050321/full/nature03570.html
Published online: 22 March 2005; | doi:10.1038/nature03570
US launches probe into sales of unapproved transgenic corn
Colin Macilwain

A strain of genetically modified corn that does not have regulatory approval has been distributed by accident over the past four years, Nature has learned. Syngenta, one of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies, revealed the mistake to US regulators at the end of last year. Although the crop is believed to be safe, the fact that it was sold for years by accident raises serious questions about how carefully biotechnology firms are controlling their activities, critics say….

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