BIG LEMMINGS/BAD FUTURE with GMOs
A lot of interesting quotes coming out of US press articles at the moment, as the warnings of the environmental and sustainable farming movement of the last decade suddenly emerge from the mouths of mainstream commentators:
Big contamination factor
Dale Farnham, an Iowa State University agronomist:
"No one knows how far the corn pollen can travel, some studies have said a quarter of a mile, so one hybrid of an unapproved event (gene) can transfer to corn in another field that has non-GMOs and produce kernels."
Agronomist Ellsworth Christmas at Indiana`s Purdue University agreed
on the cross-pollination:
"It doesn`t take much to contaminate a large quantity of corn." On the possibility of unintentional mixing of GM and non-GM post-harvest, Farnham says: "There are no safeguards."
Big Lemming factor.... F-F-F-F-FASHION!!!
Donald White, a University of Illinois plant pathologist, believes competitiveness in the industry is the driving force behind GMO introduction. On why US farmers have gone for GM corn he says, "Also what happens is there is a herd mentality. Everyone has to have a biotech program".
Big Economic factor
US corn exports to big buyers are being hurt: "...traders in Tokyo said on Wednesday the discovery that StarLink`s Cry9C protein had spread to another variety of corn only deepened doubts that U.S. corn can be kept free of genetic modification."
BAD FUTURE FACTOR
"We have not yet seen GM wheat. If we did, we would be seeing the same problems in those consumer products." - Analyst Dale Gustafson of Salomon Smith Barney
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Corn leaving bad taste in world markets as GMO worries build
Steve James, Reuters, Wednesday -- November 22, 2000
NEW YORK -Corn, as American as apple pie, is leaving a bad taste in many countries and opening up a new front in the war over so-called Frankenstein food.
The discovery in September that many brands of taco shells and chips contained StarLink, a biotech variety of corn, or maize, that had not been approved for human consumption, is hurting U.S. corn exports to big buyers like Japan and South Korea.
The announcement Tuesday that StarLink`s genetically modified protein had turned up in another variety of corn has heightened concern that bioengineered corn is spreading.
While Midwest farmers may rejoice that corn chips and tortillas are becoming the snack of choice in many countries, they are also concerned that corn is at the heart of an uproar in Europe and Asia over genetically modified food.
"It`s an issue that has caused concern among some of our importers," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said last week. But he declined to say if Washington will have to trim corn exports this year due to the StarLink controversy.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Japanese Health Ministry finalized an agreement for testing American corn shipped to Japan as food, to ensure it does not contain the StarLink strain of grain.
But traders in Tokyo said on Wednesday the discovery that StarLink`s Cry9C protein had spread to another variety of corn only deepened doubts that U.S. corn can be kept free of genetic modification.
Indian corn is a hybrid of several local grasses and has been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years.
The problem, according to agronomists and agri-industry analysts, is that while corn was traditionally viewed mostly as livestock feed, the issue of genetic modification was moot. But the recent rise in popularity of corn chips and tortillas has elevated the problem into a human health issue.
The biological makeup of corn also carries a higher risk of accidental cross- pollination and lack of storage control makes it easier for GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, to find their way into the human food chain, the experts say.
Corn's potential for cross-pollination
StarLink was approved by U.S. regulators in 1998 only for livestock feed after scientists were unable to determine if the gene-spliced corn might cause humans to develop rashes, diarrhea, respiratory problems, or other allergic reactions.
But the corn, made by Franco-German Aventis SA, accidentally got into
other yellow corn this year and triggered a recall of 300 brands of taco
shells, chips, cornmeal and other U.S. foods.
StarLink was engineered to contain a gene that protects young corn plants from destructive pests.
Indian corn is a food staple in many areas. American Indians ate sweet
corn, popcorn and corn meal in many forms and grits is a favorite across
the southern United States. Because corn has distinct strains, such as
white, yellow, blue and red corn, the plant has also become a favorite
for genetic experimentation.
"One of the problems corn has that maybe other crops don`t is the huge
potential for cross-pollination," said Dale Farnham, an Iowa State University
agronomist. Pollen, he said, is produced in the flowers at the top, or
tassel, of the corn plant, some way from the cob, and can be
blown in the wind.
"No one knows how far the corn pollen can travel, some studies havesaid a quarter of a mile, so one hybrid of an unapproved event (gene) can transfer to corn in another field that has non-GMOs and produce kernels."
Another problem, Farnham said, is the present storage and delivery systems.
"One type of corn looks like another so they can become blended accidentally
(in grain elevators). There are no safeguards. We`re dealing with 21st
century technology and storage systems that are
two or three decades out of date."
HERD MENTALITY HELPS SPREAD GM-CORN
Agronomist Ellsworth Christmas at Indiana`s Purdue University agreed on the cross-pollination. "`It doesn`t take much to contaminate a large quantity of corn. When it is made into cornmeal it can get into products like tortillas."
Donald White, a University of Illinois plant pathologist, believes competitiveness
in the industry is behind the drive for more genetic strains that are resistant
to disease or pests, or which may help a
plant adapt to local climates.
"Unlike wheat or soybeans, with corn, the farmer goes back each year for seed. It`s highly competitive and everyone is looking for a competitive edge.
"Also what happens is there is a herd mentality. Everyone has to have a biotech program," he said.
Shawn McCambridge, a Prudential Securities analyst in Chicago, said the problem did not occur with wheat possibly because wheat is used so commonly in human food. "Possibly the wheat companies are backing awayfrom genetic modification."
"With corn, you go one step further. It changes the genetic makeup of corn when you create a plant that makes its own pesticide. That`s probably why you haven`t had the Frankenstein food uproar over wheat."
Analyst Dale Gustafson of Salomon Smith Barney, noted that actually the percentage of crop modification in corn is significantly less than in soybeans. But GM in soybeans has been accepted as modifying feed and not food.
"We have not yet seen GM wheat. If we did, we would be seeing the same
problems in those consumer products."
-- Copyright © Reuters --
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
"Aventis CropScience Wednesday was at a loss to explain why another variety of corn besides its StarLink brand is producing the Cry9C protein."
United Press International November 22, 2000, ---