- DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters)
- Iowa farmers and an environmental group on Thursday 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 on Thursday 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
- They complained on Thursday 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,
- "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
- 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
- "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 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,
- 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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