- WASHINGTON -- 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 U.S. PIRG.
- 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 as: Corn and Hepatitis B and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus ProdiGene
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 pharmaceutical
- 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 the soybeans.
- "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
- "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 labeled. <http://www.gefoodalert.org/>www.gefoodalert.org
- U.S. PIRG is the national lobby office for the state
Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are nonprofit, nonpartisan
public interest advocacy groups.