GENET archive


2-Plants: U.S. fines Swiss sompany over sale of altered seed

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  U.S. Fines Swiss Company Over Sale of Altered Seed
SOURCE: The New York Times, USA, by Tom Wright
DATE:   9 Apr 2005

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U.S. Fines Swiss Company Over Sale of Altered Seed

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, April 8 - Syngenta, the Swiss agrochemicals
company, was fined $375,000 by the United States Department of
Agriculture for inadvertently selling unapproved genetically altered corn
seed, the company said Friday.

The Department of Agriculture also required Syngenta to develop a
training program to keep the mix-up in seeds from happening again, the
company said.

"We welcome the settlement with the U.S.D.A. and the government's
conclusion that Syngenta's misidentification of Bt 10 corn, while a
regrettable mistake, does not pose any risks to consumers, public health
or the environment," said Mike Mack, chief operating officer of Syngenta
Seeds, a unit of Syngenta in Golden Valley, Minn.

Markus Payer, a spokesman for Syngenta in Basel, Switzerland, said the
European Union had also asked for details on the mix-up in the unapproved
seed, Bt 10. On Tuesday, the European Commission said it thought that
about 1,000 metric tons (1,102 tons) of the unauthorized corn entered
union countries as animal feed, corn flour and corn oil.

The European Union, which has strict limits on the use of genetically
modified crops, also asked Syngenta how to identify corn grown from the
Bt 10 seed, Mr. Payer said.

Syngenta reiterated Friday that the Bt 10 corn was almost biologically
identical to Bt 11, another genetically modified corn seed that has been
approved in both the United States and Europe.

"This has no impact on the safety of the corn," Syngenta said in a
statement Friday.

Environmentalists, however, say that the unapproved corn could promote
resistance to antibiotics, a crucial difference between Bt 10 and Bt 11.

Syngenta says it believes that the problem began with an inadvertent
switching of the two types of corn seed by its researchers in the United
States in the mid-1990's when some Bt 10 seeds were probably mislabeled
as Bt 11, Mr. Payer said.

After Bt 11, which produces a protein toxic to the European corn borer,
won approval in the United States and Europe, the company set aside the
development of Bt 10.

About 14,000 bags of Bt 10 seeds, or enough to plant 37,000 acres, were
sold from 2001 to 2004, mainly to farmers in the United States, but also
in Canada and Argentina, Mr. Payer said. Farmers could have produced an
estimated 150,000 tons of corn from this area, Mr. Payer said. Assuming
export of one-fifth of that, which is the overall ratio of corn exported
to the European Union, then the amount of Bt 10 corn that ended up in the
European countries was probably quite small, he said.

Syngenta said it became aware of the problem late last year while
conducting a review of breeding lines in the United States that were
supposed to be planted with Bt 11 seeds, Mr. Payer said.

The company could face more fines from the Environmental Protection
Agency, which is conducting its own investigation.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU mulls U.S. trade ban in illegal GMO import row
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   8 Apr 2005

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EU mulls U.S. trade ban in illegal GMO import row

BRUSSELS, April 8 (Reuters) - The EU executive Commission considered
halting imports of genetically modified animal feed from the United
States on Friday in a row with a major Swiss agrochemicals group over
illegal shipments to Europe.

Syngenta disclosed in March that some of its maize seeds were mistakenly
contaminated between 2001 and 2004 with Bt-10, an insect-resistant strain
that was not approved by the European Union for distribution.

The Bt-10 got mixed up with another biotech maize, Bt-11, which is
authorised for import into Europe. The U.S., a major biotech crop grower,
exported the contaminated seed, food and animal feed to the EU.

The European Commission waNts Syngenta to help it identify Bt-10 so the
25-nation bloc can differentiate the two types of biotech maize and trace
the tainted consignments but the Swiss firm has so far refused to give
the information.

"The Commission is reflecting about possible action ... a temporary
suspension of imports of corn gluten feed," said an EU official.

The EU imports 3.5 million tonnes of biotech corn gluten feed from the
U.S. per year. It is a mixture of different types of EU approved
genetically modified maize so it is impossible to single out Bt-10
without the Syngenta detection method.

The Commission estimates that 1,000 tonnes of Bt-10 maize entered the EU
as food and animal feed while 10 kg of seeds were planted in France and
Spain in research field trials which were then destroyed.

Up until now, the Commission has sought to calm fears and leave
Washington to carry out the investigation into how the Syngenta biotech
maize was contaminated.

But repeated refusals by the Swiss firm to hand over information have
raised tensions in Brussels. Under EU law, a biotech firm is responsible
for contamination.

"We have again emphasised to Syngenta we must have it (detection method)
as soon as possible ... before next Tuesday," EU Health and Consumer
Protection Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news conference.

Syngenta said it was in touch with Brussels.

"We are in constant contact with the European Commission," said Syngenta
spokesman Markus Payer.

EU vets from the 25-nation bloc will meet on Tuesday to discuss the
situation and receive a report from the EU's food safety authority on the
risks associated with Bt-10.

The Commission will hold a video conference with the U.S. later on Friday
to get details on the quantities of biotech maize involved, Washington's
assessment of the safety of Bt-10 and how much was planted in the U.S,
added Tod.


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