ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

24 January 2003


*Farm group says USDA put bad corn into feed chain



January 23, 2003
The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) [via Agnet]

Donald Koenig of Beatty writes that in response to Jack Layton's concerns about genetically modified canola, Janice Tranberg (NDP hopefuls unwise to attack GM foods, SP Jan. 15) seems to feel that the risk of pollen flowing is low and can be managed by proper field practices.

Koenig says he is a grain farmer who has never grown Roundup canola but has grown Liberty Link and Clearfield canola on his farm in the northeast.  This year, Koenig chem-fallowed 70 acres and had it sprayed twice with Roundup. To his dismay, he discovered canola plants that didn't die. Koenig contacted the U of S research department and was told he was not the only farmer with this problem.

The Monsanto representative who came to Koenig's farm said that the plants were Roundup tolerant and they could have come in with my certified Liberty, not likely from the bees kept on his farm. Now Koenig says he has to spend more money on more chemicals to kill canola he did not want on my farm.

Monsanto is now working on Roundup-tolerant wheat. What if it ends up on Koenig's farm, as canola did? Just spend more to fix it? GM products may have some benefits, but don't believe there are no drawbacks!


Farm group says USDA put bad corn into feed chain

USA: January 24, 2003

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa farmers and an environmental group yesterday charged the U.S. government with selling a problem supply of genetically engineered corn to a feed company despite complaints that the corn had caused hormonal problems in pigs.

The Iowa Farmers Union (IFU) and Friends of the Earth sent a letter yesterday to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, asking the USDA to bar use of the corn in human or animal food "as long as the cause of reproductive failure in swine is unresolved." But a USDA spokesman told Reuters the corn had been tested and found to be safe.

More than 20 farmers have complained over the last two years about sows that ate the corn developing pseudopregnancy, exhibiting signs of pregnancy for a full term without carrying a fetus. The corn is being tested to see if it caused or contributed to the problems, the groups said.

They complained yesterday that despite the potential problems, the U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation sold 950 bushels of the suspect corn on Jan. 9 to the G&R Grain and Feed Company in Portsmouth, Iowa.

"They thought they could sell a minute amount and blend it in with other corn and the farmers would accept it," said Iowa Farmers Union representative Lori Sokolowski.

"We felt that further scientific testing needed to be done for USDA to determine if this ... is a risk. But they aren't waiting for the testing to be done."

USDA spokesman Wayne Baggett said USDA's Farm Service Agency "had samples drawn and submitted for grading. The grading showed it (the corn) was saleable."

Baggett said USDA then had the tests reviewed by Iowa State University veterinary and grain quality experts. "They reviewed the test results and determined that the corn would not be expected to affect swine."

In August, a USDA researcher wrote "one possible cause" of problems with sows "may be the presence of an unanticipated, biologically active, chemical compound within the corn."

"Why would USDA Secretary Veneman allow her Department to sell this corn to a feed company before finishing a scientific investigation to learn if it is harmful to pigs or other farm animals?" said IFU's Chris Peterson in a statement issued Thursday. "We want sound science to avoid reproductive problems in Iowa's swine herds. Independent hog farmers have told us that this problem could be the final blow to their farms."

The sows in question had all eaten a genetically modified corn, some of which was also found contaminated with a type of mold. Researchers have not yet determined what about the corn could cause the hormonal changes, but have not been able to rule out the corn as the cause, the farmers union said.

"Their hormones are all messed up. The veterinarians couldn't figure out what was wrong with the sows," said Sokolowski

Friends of the Earth, an activist group generally opposed to biotech crops, said it had been corresponding for months with the USDA on this matter. A letter from the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration dated Oct. 29 said "scientists are testing the corn to determine if it contains a novel toxin that might impact swine production," but no final determination had ever been communicated.

The farmers union and Friends of the Earth acknowledged that researchers at Iowa State University have said that genetically engineered Bt corn is not the cause of swine reproductive failures experienced by numerous local farmers.

But they said, research has not not concluded whether some other aspect of the corn was causing the problems.

The USDA has about 22,000 bushels of the suspect corn, having obtained it as collateral on a loan to the operators of a Harlan, Iowa, farm.

The groups said the FSA attempted in late 2002 to sell the corn for ethanol production but it was rejected by a local processor.

"When there is a mysterious problem that could affect the fate of farmers, our health and the environment, we need answers - not attempts to sweep it under the rug like the USDA has done," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Larry Bohlen.

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