Daily News Archive

EPA Threatens Action Against Biotech Crops
(from August 16, 2002)

According to USA Today, the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to issue complaints against subsidiaries of Dow Chemical and DuPont for not complying with strict rules governing experimental plots of genetically engineered corn being grown in Hawaii.

This is the first time the EPA has threatened enforcement action against an experimental biotech crop during field testing, says EPA spokesman David Deegan.

The experimental corn produces its own pesticides; it has genetic material from bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium, inserted into it, making it resistant to the Western corn rootworm. Such bioengineering of food is controversial because the use of genetically altered Bt crops raises serious safety concerns for agriculture . Plants can crossbreed and share genes, spreading potentially dangerous attributes far beyond the original experiment - and potentially into the general food supply. In addition, the EPA has not considered the widespread allergenic effects of Bt plant pesticides. Evidence suggests that protein manipulation in plants can cause adverse reactions in humans that eat them. This area needs further study and raises some of the most serious implications for a technology that has not been fully evaluated prior to its widespread introduction into the marketplace.

In letters sent Aug. 5 to Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a DuPont subsidiary, and Mycogen Seeds, a Dow AgroSciences subsidiary, the EPA says both companies are in violation of federal regulations. The companies have until Aug. 30 to respond.

The EPA accuses Pioneer of planting the biotech crop in an unapproved location and too close to other corn seed plots. Mycogen is accused of using the wrong variety of corn as a buffer to isolate the biotech crop and not planting trees as windbreaks to prevent the spread of transgenic pollen to nearby plots.

The companies face minor fines of $5,500 for each violation.

For more information on genetically engineered corn read Beyond Pesticides Statement on Bt Engineered Corn.