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.
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
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.
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
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Phone: (415) 981-1771
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