The USDA has hurried to approve yet another GM crop — a variety of GM corn called Enogen. That makes three GM crops the USDA has hastily rushed to approve in the last two weeks.
But there is a stunning difference in this particular GM crop: Enogen GM corn is one of the first crops genetically engineered to contain a trait that influences the use of the plant after harvest. Until now, virtually all GM crops possessed insect and herbicide-resistant traits only.
According to the NYTimes, Enogen corn contains a microbial gene that causes it to produce an enzyme that breaks down corn starch into sugar, the first step toward making ethanol. Ethanol manufacturers now buy this enzyme, called alpha amylase, in liquid form and add it to the corn at the start of their production process.
And the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has gone so far as to deregulate its use.
“APHIS conducted a plant pest risk assessment and found this line of corn does not pose a plant pest risk, and should no longer be subject to regulation by APHIS,” said Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS’ biotechnology regulatory services.
According to Farms.com, the new GM corn trait in Enogen, developed by Syngenta, has been approved for import into Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia and Taiwan, and for cultivation in Canada—and now the U.S.
General Mills, Others, Fear Cross-Pollination
In addition to the tireless struggle by food activists in resistance to GM crops, this time the biotech industry faces tremendous opposition by over 40 companies including huge corporations like General Mills and ConAgra Mills, who until now, have been steadfast GM supporters. Their concern is with cross-pollination of Enogen GM corn with the corn crops they use for food.
Despite Syngenta’s claim that the corn would be grown only in the vicinity of ethanol plants, and that steps would be taken to limit cross-pollination or inadvertent mixing in grain elevators, the aggressively expressed fear by powerful food corporations like General Mills of cross-pollination and unwanted commingling of a GM crop with crops used for food exposes the false claims and lies that the biotech industry has perpetrated regarding the assured controlled distribution and safe planting of GM crops.
Everyone concerned knows the GM spread and contamination is inevitable. “This is StarLink all over again,” said Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists, referring to when a genetically engineered variety of corn that produced the Cry9C protein approved only for animal use got mixed into the human food supply.
“If this corn is comingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance,” the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) said in a statement.
NAMA is a trade association representing 43 companies that operate 170 wheat, oat and corn mills in 38 states and Canada.
USDA Reckless, Out of Control
NAMA claims the USDA failed to use its authority to consider the petition for deregulation as one for the production of a plant made industrial product that would have provided for a more thorough scientific review. NAMA says Syngenta’s own scientific data released last month shows if this corn is co-mingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance.
“USDA has failed to provide the public with sufficient scientific data on the economic impacts of contamination on food production, or information on how USDA will ensure Syngenta’s compliance with a stewardship plan,” said Mary Waters, President of NAMA.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also approved GM sugar beet plants in violation of a US federal ban that in effect “deregulated” the use of GM sugar beet plants without passage of a regulatory review.
Additionally, Vilsack permitted the unrestricted commercial cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa, reneging on his pledge to restrict growing genetically engineered alfalfa to protect organic farmers from biotech contamination.
And when GM Enogen corn finds its way into the human food supply, and it will, no one has a clue, as with all GM food, what the potential human health hazards will be since to date no human clinical trials with any GM foods have ever been conducted.