by Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji
from InstituteOfScienceInSociety Website
Biotech giant Syngenta has been criminally charged with denying knowledge that its genetically modified (GM) Bt corn kills livestock during a civil court case that ended in 2007 .
cultivation of Bt 176 was discontinued in 2007. Similar varieties
however, including Bt 11 sweet corn are currently cultivated for
human and animal consumption in the EU.
They were grown on his farm as part of authorized field tests during 1997 to 2002. By 2000, his cows were fed exclusively on Bt 176, and soon illnesses started to emerge.
During a civil lawsuit brought against the company by the farmer however, Syngenta refused to admit that its GM corn was the cause, claiming no knowledge of harm.
was dismissed and Gloeckner remained thousands of Euros in debt.
Unsurprisingly, no causal relationship
between the GM feed and deaths was determined; and there is still no
explanation for the deaths.
The trial was abruptly terminated.
Now Gloeckner, along with a German group called Bündnis Aktion Gen-Klage and another farmer turned activist Urs Hans, have brought Syngenta to the criminal court to face charges of withholding knowledge of the US trial, which makes the company liable for the destruction of the farmer's 65 cows.
Syngenta is also charged with the deaths of cattle in the US trial and on Gloeckner's farm, which should have been registered as "unexpected occurrences".
Most seriously, the German head of Syngenta Hans-Theo Jahmann, is charged for withholding knowledge of the US study from the judge and from Gloecker in the original civil court case.
In India where livestock are left to graze on post-harvest cotton, thousands of livestock deaths have been recorded in different villages across central India where Bt cotton is grown (see  Mass Deaths of Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton, SiS 30).
Shepherds' own observations and post-mortem analysis carried out in the laboratory revealed abnormal liver, enlarged bile ducts and black patches in the intestine.
The shepherds said that the sheep became "dull/depressed" after 2-3 days of grazing, started coughing with nasal discharge and developed red lesions in the mouth, became bloated and suffered blackish diarrhea, and sometimes passed red urine.
Death occurred within 5-7 days of grazing. Sheep from young lambs to adults of 1.5-2 years were affected. One shepherd reported getting diarrhea from eating the meat of an affected sheep.
The vets declared that the toxicity could be due to the Bt toxin but this could not be proven as results were confounded by additional pesticides used on the fields.
The shepherds were however, advised
against letting the sheep graze on any more Bt cotton plants.
Five mortalities were reported in 2003 and subsequently, 38 individuals had their blood analysed and all were positive for antibodies specific to Cry1Ab, suggesting an immune reaction to the toxin.
As is often the case, intimidation and denial by government officials meant that there were no further investigations into the matter.
The biotech industry claims that Bt toxins are quickly digested in the stomach and are only effective in insect target species. However, a recent study has found the toxin in the blood of over 80 % of women and their unborn children tested in Canada .
Because naturally existing Bt toxins from the soil bacterium have been used for a long time, long-term toxicology and health risk assessments on Bt proteins in GM crops were not done. However, there are important differences between the naturally produced toxins that can be washed off the crops, as opposed to genetically modified toxins that are part and parcel of the GM crop.
Independent studies have shown that
basing health assessments on flawed scientific assumptions is not
only arrogant, but foolish.
Binding of Cry1Ac to the intestine of mice has been shown, with concomitant diarrhea symptoms . A meta-analysis of 3 month feeding studies in laboratory animals found that Bt maize led to changes in blood protein levels indicative of abnormal liver metabolism (see  GM Feed Toxic, Meta-Analysis Confirms, SiS 52).
A recent study finds Cry1Ab toxic to human kidney cells, causing cell death at low doses (see  Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells, SiS 52).