P A N U P S (Pesticide Action Network Updates Service)
June 16, 2001

Thousands of Field Tests of GE Crops Across the U.S.


Nearly 29,000 field tests of genetically engineered organisms were

authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) between 1987 and

2000 despite serious environmental threats and inadequate regulations in

place to monitor their impacts, according to a new report released by the

State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) and Genetically Engineered

Food Alert.

When the science of genetic engineering began in the 1970s, the National

Institutes of Health (NIH) said experiments that released genetically

engineered organisms into the environment were too hazardous and should not

be performed. Despite these early calls for caution, a booming agriculture

biotechnology industry has developed. The report, Raising Risk: Field

Testing of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., documents the extent of

field testing of genetically engineered crops in the U.S. and highlights the

potential risks associated with release of genetically engineered organisms

into the environment. If field experiments are not properly monitored,

genetic pollution may result, putting farmers' livelihoods and the

environment at risk.

Key findings of the report include:

* USDA has approved nearly 29,000 field tests through the year 2000.

* More than 60% of all field tests conducted in the last year contain genes

classified as "Confidential Business Information."

* Between 1987&endash;2000, Monsanto (or a now wholly-owned subsidiary)

applied to conduct the greatest number of field tests every year, totaling

nearly 2,000 applications.

* Since 1995, seven of the top 10 companies seeking to conduct field tests

have merged into two companies: Monsanto and DuPont.

* As of January 2001, the ten states and territories that have hosted the

greatest number of field test sites are: Hawaii (3,275), Illinois (2,832),

Iowa (2,820), Puerto Rico (2,296), California (1,435), Idaho (1,060),

Minnesota (1,055), Nebraska (971), Wisconsin (918), and Indiana (886).

These experimental genetically engineered crops are grown in the open

environment to test the outcome and environmental impact of certain gene

combinations. The groups charged that field testing genetically engineered

crops in such a widespread way poses serious threats to neighboring farms

and the environment.

"Any new technology must be tested, but there are important scientific

issues that must be addressed before genetically engineered foods can be

released into the environment," said Richard Caplan, U.S. PIRG. "To conduct

field tests before this has been done is both premature and hazardous; it is

like carrying out clinical trials of a drug before the laboratory tests are


A goal of the field tests is to obtain information about potential

ecological risks associated with genetically engineered organisms. However,

independent reviews of the data collected by the Department of Agriculture

demonstrate that little data has been collected. As a result, despite the

large number of field experiments that have occurred, fundamental questions

about their impact remain unanswered, including long-term impacts on the

soil and non-target species.

Source: Raising Risk: Field Testing of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., is available at http://www.gefoodalert.org.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)

49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA

Phone: (415) 981-1771

Fax: (415) 981-1991

Email: panna@panna.org

Web: http://www.panna.org