Field Experiments Of
Bizarre Genetically Engineered Crops Doubled In Past
Two Years - Authorized Experiments Are A Risk To
Human Health And The Environment
Twice as many field tests
of genetic engineering experiments involving plants combined with
genes from humans, chickens, cows, mice, and other animals were
authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) between 2001
and mid-2003 than were authorized during the entire first 13 years
of USDA record keeping, according to a new report released today by
The PIRG-authored report, "Weird Science: The Brave New World of
Genetic Engineering", documents the previously inconceivable ways in
which scientists are manipulating nature and highlights the
differences between genetic engineering and traditional plant
breeding. It also examines the unpredictability of genetic
engineering, detailing examples of some unexpected results that have
already occurred in field tests.
As part of their fourth annual Kraft Week of Action, U.S. PIRG and
the Genetically Engineered Food Alert coalition called on Kraft to
remove genetically engineered ingredients from their products, and
join in the call for stronger regulations of genetically engineered
crops, including mandatory pre-market safety testing and labeling.
"Open-air plantings of bizarre gene combinations in common food
crops are unpredictable and potentially dangerous," said U.S. PIRG
environmental advocate Richard Caplan. "The biotechnology industry,
the food industry, and the U.S. regulatory system are failing to
protect human health and the environment."
The report highlights field tests of unusual gene combinations such
Corn and Hepatitis B and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus
genetically engineered a corn with genes from a number of viruses,
including hepatitis B virus and the simian immunodeficiency virus.
USDA issued a permit in 2001 for ProdiGene to field test this
corn on 53.5 acres in Nebraska.
Safflower and Carp
Emlay and Associates created safflower that produces pharmaceutical
proteins by genetically engineering the safflower with growth
hormones from carp. USDA agreed in June 2003 for this crop to be
grown on 11 acres in North Dakota and Nevada.
Wheat and Chickens
The University of Nebraska acquired three permits to grow field
trials of wheat genetically engineered with chicken genes to produce
fungal resistance. The field tests were authorized to occur between
March 2002 and August 2003 in Nebraska.
Rats and Soybeans
The University of Kentucky used the genes of the Norwegian rat to
alter the oil profile of soybeans.
The test was authorized to begin
in May 2003 on an acre in Kentucky and can continue until May 2004.
The report disputes industry claims that they can insert foreign DNA
into new species with great accuracy, and that the technology is
merely an extension of traditional plant breeding.
In May 2000, for example, Monsanto disclosed for the first time that
its genetically engineered soybeans-their most widely used product,
which has been on the market for four years-contained additional and
unexpected gene fragments.
Just one year later, Monsanto had to
admit once again that additional unexpected DNA was discovered in
"Despite very visible gaffes by the biotechnology industry, such as
illegal corn in taco shells or unapproved genetically engineered
livestock in the food supply, it is shocking to learn about
experiments that put rat genes in soybeans and chicken genes in
corn," added Caplan. "Because genetically engineered crops are
poorly regulated and resulting food products carry no consumer
label, consumers are all test subjects in a vast food experiment."
The Food and Drug Administration does not require safety testing or
labeling for genetically engineered foods.
80-90 percent of the
American public consistently favors mandatory labeling of
genetically engineered foods. The Department of Agriculture was
recently excoriated by the National Academy of Sciences for
inadequate oversight over field testing of genetically engineered
crops and a lack of scientific expertise.
U.S. PIRG and Genetically Engineered Food Alert criticized the U.S.
government's continued efforts to force genetically engineered
products on American consumers by failing to offer consumer choice
through mandatory labeling, and forcing them abroad through trade
threats and multilateral trading institutions such as the World
Trade Organization. Kraft is the largest food company in the United
States and second largest in the world.
The coalition criticized
Kraft for removing genetically engineered ingredients from food sold
in the European Union while taking no such action in the United
"Genetically engineered products are being forced on us without
adequate testing and without consumer choice," concluded Caplan.
"Kraft has the opportunity to be a leader in rejecting genetically
engineered crops but has failed to do so. It is time for the food
industry and the biotechnology industry to stop this unwelcome
experiment on the U.S. environment and American consumers."
Genetically Engineered Food Alert
supports the removal of genetically engineered ingredients from
grocery store shelves unless they are adequately safety tested and
is the national lobby office for the state Public Interest
State PIRGs are nonprofit, nonpartisan public
interest advocacy groups.