First some interesting comments we've had from Prof Joe Cummins following Syngenta's confirmation of the fact that a marker gene that confers resistance to ampicillin, a commonly used antibiotic, was present in the Bt10 seeds - something that they failed to disclose previously when they maintained that Bt10 was more or less identical to Bt11 corn which has US approval.
Here Joe points to some more missing pieces of the jigsaw that have also been kept back by Syngenta and the US regulatory authorities in their attempt to finesse this scandal. Joe writes:
The promoter question is still very much open. It would be good for Syngenta to release the full molecular data including the promoter (enhancer) change and as well the Canadian review of Bt11 showed that there were several Cry proteins produced, either by breakdown or processing. we really need to know what Cry proteins are produced in Bt10.
Finally, it was clear Syngenta marketed a defective under producing product in Bt10 then palmed off many tonnes of the seed. Why keep tonnes of inferior seed?
What a mess!
------DEFRA accused of key role in GM contamination cover-up
Press Notice from GM Free Cymru, 30th March 2005
DEFRA was accused today of playing a key role in a spin-doctored cover-up designed to protect the GM industry from the effects of the latest GM contamination scandal. According to GM Free Cymru, the Government Department rushed into print last week to protect the corporate giant Syngenta, within 24 hours of receiving notification of the contamination of maize supplies with the unauthorized variety Bt10. The organization insists that the DEFRA press notice was inaccurate and misleading, and contained statements which DEFRA must have known to be untrue (1).
** The DEFRA statement stresses in several places that the contamination incident was on "an extremely small scale". But GM Free Cymru points out that by using Syngenta's own figures (2) it is clear that around 187,000 tonnes of contaminated maize has entered the food chain, and that unauthorised GM material has been distributed on a massive scale. Some of this material has been exported to Europe, but Syngenta refuses to release details.
** DEFRA pretends that because USDA has concluded that there are no safety concerns about the contamination incident, we should all come to the same conclusion. What DEFRA does not say is that there is no effective regulation of GM crops and foods in the USA, and that Bt 10 maize has never come before the authorities for assessment or regulation either in the US or Europe (3). The DEFRA attitude is complacent and even negligent.
** DEFRA states that Bt10 maize "is covered by the existing tolerance exemption for Bt11" and that it is virtually identical in its proteins. This is a disingenuous and dangerous statement, since DEFRA and ACRE knew as long ago as 2003 that Bt10 is unique and identifiable (4). It also contains ampicillin antibiotic resistant marker genes, which makes it illegal in Europe (5).
** DEFRA and ACRE are in possession of detailed technical data about Bt10 which they have refused, in spite of requests from a number of NGOs, to place in the public domain. This information is not commercially sensitive. We believe that since Bt10 was developed about ten years ago by the Northrup-King company (later taken over by Syngenta) it has changed its character and may be unstable. If this is the case, and if Bt10 really is a "failed" variety, DEFRA should be taking steps to protect the public instead of taking steps to protect Syngenta.
Speaking for GM Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: "It is well known that one of DEFRA's policy objectives is the promotion of GM crops and foods against the clearly-expressed wishes of the British public. But in rushing to "damp down" speculation about the extent of Bt10 contamination, and any associated health dangers, it has danced to Syngenta's tune and has failed in its duty of care. Has DEFRA not learned anything from the BSE disaster and the F&M disaster? We may now have maize products on our supermarket shelves that contain antibiotics, and our Government appears to be quite disinterested."
Contact: Dr Brian John
(1) DEFRA Press Release, 23 March 2005 (see below)
(2) Press Release: Following Syngenta-initiated investigation of unintended corn release, EPA and USDA conclude existing food safety clearance applies, no human health or environmental concerns , Washington, DC (USA), 21 March 2005, Syngenta web site.
GM Maize imported into Europe had no US or EU approval
Press Notice from GM Free Cymru, 24 March 2005
Seven packages of information about Bt10 were submitted to EPA between Jan 7th and March 10th 2005; these were reviewed, and EPA then confirmed the Syngenta view that there was no risk associated with the releases of Bt10 into the environment and the food chain. There appear to have been no laboratory analyses of Bt10 maize either by EPA, USDA or FDA.
(4) We now know that the differences between the Bt10 and Bt11 varieties were so significant that the former was used as a 'control' to establish the distinctiveness of the latter. If these differences had not been established, Bt11 would never have been given approval in Europe. See ACRE advice as follows:
In the Syngenta press release, the company said that the Bt protein produced by the Bt10 breeding lines is identical to that produced by the commercialized, fully approved Bt11 varieties. They claimed, on this basis, that there is no change to the food, health and environmental profile of the corn. In the view of GM Free Cymru this is a fraudulent statement.
(5) According to FoE Europe, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) notes that Bt10 contains one or more copies of the ampicillin resistance marker gene (beta lactamase), which is not present in Bt11. This therefore makes Bt10 a very different GMO than Bt11. Since ampicillin is a widely used clinical antibiotic, and EFSA, Codex Alimentarius, FAO-WHO and many medical and scientific experts have recommended against the use of genes for such antibiotics in GM foods, it would certainly not be licenced in the EU.
Below is GM FREE CYMRU's latest press release on Syngenta's rogue corn scandal.