GENET archive


3-Food: Syngenta EU corn imports prove free of GMO strain

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Syngenta EU Corn Imports Prove Free of GMO Strain
SOURCE: Reuters, by Pilar Wolfsteller
DATE:   27 Apr 2005

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Syngenta EU Corn Imports Prove Free of GMO Strain

BASEL - Tests of Syngenta animal feed and grains imported into the
European Union have shown the products to be free of a genetically
modified (GMO) strain of maize blocked by the EU, the company said on Tuesday.

Last month, the Swiss agrochemicals company came under fire from
environmentalists and food regulators on both sides of the Atlantic for
accidentally mixing the unauthorized maize, called Bt-10, with another
strain that had been approved by the EU in 1998, called Bt-11.

The mix-up, which occurred between 2001 and 2004, prompted a renewed
discussion about the safety of genetically modified products in
traditionally GMO-shy Europe.

Earlier this month, the EU blocked imports of grains unless there was
proof the shipments were untainted by Bt-10, which had been engineered to
resist the corn borer insect.

The approved Bt-11 strain is legal for food and feed use in the EU and
other countries. "So far, 20 vessels have been tested since the programme
began, and all have tested negative," Michael Mack, the head of Syngenta
Seeds, told journalists on the sidelines of the annual shareholder
meeting on Tuesday.

Certificates proving a cargo has no traces of Bt-10 must be issued by an
internationally accredited laboratory on the basis of an EU-validated
test provided by Syngenta. The measures will be reviewed in six months' time.


US exporters send 3.5 million tonnes of corn gluten feed to Europe each
year, a trade worth some 350 million euros ($449 million).

In March the US Department of Agriculture also fined Syngenta, the
world's largest agrochemicals firm, $375,000 for the error.

Syngenta Chief Executive Michael Pragnell reassured shareholders at
Tuesday's annual meeting that the food supply was safe and there would be
no adverse financial effects.

"We regret the error, but there were no safety issues with Bt-10 because
the proteins were identical as those in Bt-11," Pragnell said. He added
that the Bt-10 seeds made up just one one-hundredth of a percent of the
total seed sent to farmers.

Small amounts of seeds, up to 10 kilograms, arrived in France and Spain
from US suppliers for research purposes. An estimated 1,000 tonnes
entered the EU as food and animal feed, but it is still not clear to
which countries.

Mack said all of the tainted seeds left over were destroyed before the
2005 planting season began and denied that the incident would turn
Europeans against gene technology.

"I genuinely don't believe that this will set back the slow but forward-
moving process of GMO acceptance in Europe," Mack said. "Syngenta is not
going to have this mistake happen again."

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

TITLE:  Brussels clears lab detection test for Bt 10
SOURCE: Food Navigator, France, by Lindsey Partos
DATE:   26 Apr 2005

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Brussels clears lab detection test for Bt 10

26/04/2005 - Brussels clears new lab technology that can detect illegal
GM sweetcorn Bt 10 following the discovery of this unapproved maize in
Europe's food chain, writes Lindsey Partos.

Earlier this month Swiss biotech firm Syngenta warned it had accidentally
sold the illegal Bt 10 in the US for four years, resulting in about 133
million kilograms of the corn making its way into food and feeds.

Reacting to the news, the European Commission quickly issued emergency
measures whereby imports of corn gluten feed and brewers grain from the
US can only be placed on the EU market if they are certified to be Bt 10 free.

Helping food and feed firms to overcome the hurdle of detection, Brussels
said this week that a new event specific method (initially proposed by
Syngenta) for detecting Bt10 has been approved by the Joint Research
Centre (JRC), Europe's reference laboratory for genetically modified

This silica gel membrane DNA extraction protocol is based on the
respective protocol from the Japanese MHLW guideline for the testing of
foods produced by recombinant DNA techniques.

"The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol uses target-specific
oligonucleotides that have been designed to amplify a 130 bp DNA sequence
specific to Bt10 event," says the Commission.

A sample test uses about 1 kg of ground corn.

Between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta accidentally sold Bt 10 corn, mistaking
it for the variety Bt 11, approved for food and feed use imports into the EU.

Both varieties produce a bacterial toxin that kills insects, using the
same inserted gene and producing the same protein. The only difference is
the location of the inserted gene, Syngenta claims.

Syngenta says it discovered the mistake for itself when it switched to a
new quality control system that tests for DNA directly. Previously it had
tested only for proteins, which meant the two varieties appeared identical.

Earlier this week the US department of agriculture fined Syngenta
$375,000 for the slip up.

That previous testing methods failed to detect an illegal sweetcorn
present in the food chain for the past four years will do little to
reassure the already GM cynical European consumer.

Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the emergency measures but warned
that Europe "remains exposed to high-risk imports of illegal GMOs, in
wheat, rice, soybeans and rape seed, as well as maize."

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has
said it thought about 1,000 metric tons of the unauthorised strain of
Bt10 corn, all grown in the US, had entered member states through animal
feed, corn flour and corn oil.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  US Corn Grower Official Cites Japan Biotech Qualms
SOURCE: Reuters, by Randy Fabi
DATE:   27 Apr 2005

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US Corn Grower Official Cites Japan Biotech Qualms

WASHINGTON - Japan is seeking further assurance from the United States
that an unapproved biotech corn strain accidentally mixed with US grain
shipments was not a risk to people, animals or plants, a senior official
of a US industry group told Reuters Tuesday.

 Japanese corn buyers have slowed purchases due to fears they could face
millions of dollars in losses if their cargoes contain Bt10 -- an
unauthorized strain of genetically modified corn made by Swiss
agrochemicals group Syngenta AG . The maize mix-up occurred between 2001
and 2004.

National Corn Growers Association Chief Executive Officer Rick Tolman
said Japan wanted assurances from the US Food and Drug Administration
about the safety of the Bt10 corn strain in food and feed.

"Japan is looking for a strong statement from the FDA on this being
approved," Tolman said in an interview after meeting with top Bush
administration officials.

But Tolman said the FDA does not have oversight in the Syngenta case.

Both the US Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection
Agency have concluded that the Bt10 strain does not pose a danger to
people, animals or plants.

USDA officials were expected to seek clarification from Japan on what
exactly Tokyo wanted. Tolman said the issue "should be resolved shortly."

Tolman said Tokyo was also close to deciding whether to begin testing for
Bt10 in US corn shipments.

"Syngenta has delivered tests to Japan and they are currently looking at
the tests to verify them and make sure that it is what they want to do,"
he said.

Earlier this month, Europe blocked imports of US maize animal feed and
grains unless there was proof the shipments did not contain the biotech

The European Union this week approved the Syngenta tests, enabling
imports of US maize animal feed and grains to resume.

"They (USDA) reassured us that things were pretty well straightened out
with the EU," he said.

USDA has fined Syngenta $375,000 for the mistake. The EPA was expected to
conclude its own separate investigation soon.

Tolman and other members of the US Agriculture Department's trade
advisory committee met with USDA Secretary Mike Johanns and other
government officials to discuss the Bt10 corn incident and other trade issues.


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