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APPROVAL & AGROFUELS: U.S. approves corn modified for ethanol against objections from corn millers



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   U.S. APPROVES CORN MODIFIED FOR ETHANOL

SOURCE:  The New York Times, USA

AUTHOR:  Andrew Pollak

URL:     http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/business/12corn.html?_r=1&src=busln

DATE:    12.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The decision, announced Friday, came in the face of objections from corn millers and others in the food industry, who warned that if the industrial corn cross-pollinated with or were mixed with corn used for food, it could lead to crumbly corn chips, soggy cereal, loaves of bread with soupy centers and corn dogs with inadequate coatings. ?If this corn is comingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance,? the North American Millers? Association said in a statement on Friday."

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U.S. APPROVES CORN MODIFIED FOR ETHANOL

The decision, announced Friday, came in the face of objections from corn millers and others in the food industry, who warned that if the industrial corn cross-pollinated with or were mixed with corn used for food, it could lead to crumbly corn chips, soggy cereal, loaves of bread with soupy centers and corn dogs with inadequate coatings.

?If this corn is comingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance,? the North American Millers? Association said in a statement on Friday.

The corn, developed by Syngenta, contains a microbial gene that causes it to produce an enzyme that breaks down corn starch into sugar, the first step toward making ethanol. Ethanol manufacturers now buy this enzyme, called alpha amylase, in liquid form and add it to the corn at the start of their production process.

Syngenta says that having the crop make the enzyme for its own breakdown ? self-processing corn, as it were ? will increase ethanol output while reducing the use of water, energy and chemicals in the production process. The company, a seed and pesticide manufacturer based in Switzerland, said it would take various measures to prevent the corn from getting into the food supply.

The corn, which is called Enogen, is one of the first crops genetically engineered to contain a trait that influences use of the plant after harvest. Virtually all past biotech crops have had traits like insect resistance, aimed at helping farmers more than manufacturers or consumers.

Enogen is also one of the first to be engineered solely for industrial purposes.

The Agriculture Department said the corn met the statutory requirements for approval, in that it was not a pest that would harm plants. The Food and Drug Administration had previously found the corn safe to eat.

The Agriculture Department said the food processors should work with Syngenta to address their concerns. ?We are pleased that these segments of industry continue to dialogue with Syngenta on research and testing efforts,? the department said in a press release.

The corn approval is the third recent one in which the Agriculture Department has had to weigh the risks of the spread of a genetically engineered trait.

Two weeks ago, it approved the unrestricted cultivation of biotech alfalfa over the objections of some environmental groups and the organic food industry. Last week, it cleared biotech sugar beets for planting, with some restrictions. Both the alfalfa and beets have a gene making them tolerant of the herbicide Roundup.

With Syngenta?s corn, however, the opponents are not only the usual anti-biotechnology groups but also a powerful industry that is normally receptive to biotechnology. The millers? association, which has led the opposition, represents 43 companies, including giants like General Mills, ConAgra Mills and ADM Milling.

The association said that Syngenta?s own data indicated that as little as one amylase corn kernel mixed with 10,000 conventional kernels could be enough to weaken the corn starch and disrupt food processing operations.

Another concern of some in the food industry is that if the amylase corn is found in food supplies it could lead to recalls or disrupt exports.

Syngenta says the amylase enzyme is not active when the kernel is intact. It is most active, the company said, at certain levels of temperature, acidity and moisture found in ethanol factories but rarely in factories that make corn starch, corn syrup or corn chips.

Syngenta also said the corn would be grown only in the vicinity of ethanol plants. Farmers would be under contract and have financial incentives to sell their output only to that plant. Other steps would be taken to limit cross-pollination or inadvertent mixing in grain elevators.

But food processors and environmental groups said that some spread was inevitable.

?This is StarLink all over again,? said Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists. She was referring to the situation in 2000 when a genetically modified corn approved only for animal use got into the human food supply, prompting huge recalls and disrupting American exports.

One difference, however, is that unlike StarLink, Syngenta?s new corn is approved for food use. Other alpha amylase enzymes are already used in food processing.

The Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group, said it was preparing to sue. The group persuaded a court to temporarily revoke the approvals of the biotech alfalfa and sugar beets because the Agriculture Department had not done a full environmental impact statement. The department, which has been reviewing Syngenta?s application since 2005, did not prepare such a statement for Syngenta?s corn.

Syngenta said that this year it expected the corn to be grown on fewer than 25,000 acres, in the western parts of Kansas and Nebraska. However, use could expand greatly in the future. As much as 40 percent of the nation?s corn crop last year is going into ethanol production.

The National Corn Growers Association applauded the corn?s approval.

The corn contains a synthetic gene derived from micro-organisms that live near hot-water vents on the ocean?s floor. The enzyme is stable at the high temperatures used in making ethanol. The liquid amylase now used by ethanol plants is made in other micro-organisms.

Syngenta said that use of its corn increased ethanol production by 8 percent and reduced natural gas consumption 8 percent in a test at an ethanol plant in Oakley, Kan.

?We don?t ever want to go back to a liquid amylase product,? Steve McNinch, the chief executive of Western Plains Energy, the owner of the plant, said in a statement issued by Syngenta.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   USDA CLEARS SYNGENTA BIOTECH CORN OPPOSED BY GRAIN MILLERS

SOURCE:  The Wall Street Journal, USA

AUTHOR:  Scott Kilman

URL:     http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703843004576138911297227814.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

DATE:    11.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The U.S. Agriculture Department, ending years of regulatory limbo, Friday cleared the commercial planting of a genetically-modified corn made by Syngenta AG that is opposed by U.S. grain millers. [...] Syngenta, which spent a few hundred million dollars to develop the corn, expects ethanol companies to pay farmers a premium for growing the amylase-producing crop because it saves them the expense of buying a liquid form of the enzyme."

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USDA CLEARS SYNGENTA BIOTECH CORN OPPOSED BY GRAIN MILLERS

The U.S. Agriculture Department, ending years of regulatory limbo, Friday cleared the commercial planting of a genetically-modified corn made by Syngenta AG that is opposed by U.S. grain millers.

Syngenta, which has its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, genetically modified its corn line to make an enzyme called alpha-amylase. The new corn, which Syngenta calls Enogen, is designed to be used by producers of ethanol-fuel, which turn corn into alcohol through fermentation much like distillers make booze.

Ethanol makers use the enzyme to convert the starch in corn kernels into the sugar that their alcohol-excreting microorganisms like to eat. Syngenta, which spent a few hundred million dollars to develop the corn, expects ethanol companies to pay farmers a premium for growing the amylase-producing crop because it saves them the expense of buying a liquid form of the enzyme.

Syngenta?s corn has been mired in the regulatory review process at the USDA since 2005 in large part because millers fought the seed?s commercialization over fears that the corn will accidently slip into their factories, where the enzyme could play havoc with the functionality of some products.

Food companies use starch to make many products, ranging from breakfast cereal to corn chips. ?Syngenta?s own scientific data released last month shows if this corn is co-mingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance,? said a statement released by the North American Millers? Association Friday.

Biotechnology critics have followed Syngenta?s corn closely because it is the first major biotech-crop cleared by the USDA for industrial purposes. While the vast majority of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, those plants are endowed with traits that make them easier for farmers to grow.

Syngenta?s corn was cleared in 2007 for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of food. Amylase is an enzyme that is widely present in nature; the human digestive system makes it.

But the Union of Concerned Scientists, a public-interest group, still has concerns about the safety of Syngenta?s enzyme because it comes from a unique source. The genetic material that Syngenta put in its corn plant came from exotic microorganisms able to live in extremely hot water, such as near deep sea vents.

?The USDA just threw the food processing industry under the bus for the biotechnology industry,? said Margaret Mellon, director of the food environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Syngenta, which makes pesticides and seeds, said it expects U.S. farmers to plant about 25,000 acres of its biotech corn this spring, and that planting of the crop might grow to millions of acres in a decade as it is adopted by the ethanol industry, which is consuming about 40% of the U.S. corn crop.

Syngenta said it will prevent its new biotech corn from getting into food-processing supplies with contracts requiring that the farmers who grow it and the ethanol companies that use it follow strict handling rules.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   USDA FULLY DEREGULATES GE ?ETHANOL CORN?

SOURCE:  Food Safety News, USA

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/usda-fully-deregulates-ethanol-corn/

DATE:    12.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday it would deregulate industrial corn that is genetically engineered for ethanol production, saying the crop does not pose a plant risk. Syngenta Seeds, which developed the corn, said its Enogen seed would be available for the upcoming season for a small number of growers and by 2012 for larger scale commercial planting under contracted, closed production. The corn had previously been found by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be safe to eat, but it is an industrial crop, intended to cut the cost of ethanol production."

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USDA FULLY DEREGULATES GE ?ETHANOL CORN?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday it would deregulate industrial corn that is genetically engineered for ethanol production, saying the crop does not pose a plant risk.

Syngenta Seeds, which developed the corn, said its Enogen seed would be available for the upcoming season for a small number of growers and by 2012 for larger scale commercial planting under contracted, closed production.

The corn had previously been found by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be safe to eat, but it is an industrial crop, intended to cut the cost of ethanol production. The corn is genetically engineered to produce an enzyme that speeds the breakdown of starch into sugar, which would increase efficiency in making the biofuel.

The fear of groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists is that it will contaminate corn grown for food.

?The USDA?s decision defies common sense,? said Margaret Mellon, director of UCS?s Food and Environment Program, in a news release. ?There is no way to protect food corn crops from contamination by ethanol corn. Even with the most stringent precautions, the wind will blow and standards will slip. In this case, there are no required precautions.?

Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, wrote on his group?s website, ?Syngenta?s biofuels corn will inevitably contaminate food-grade corn, and could well trigger substantial rejection in our corn export markets, hurting farmers.?

Food processors are also concerned about the cost of monitoring their corn supplies for contamination, UCS noted. Syngenta acknowledges that processors will have to test food supply corn, forcing millers to cover that cost.

Syngenta Seeds maintains the corn will reduce the amount of water, energy and chemicals used to make ethanol; a third of all corn grown in the U.S. already goes to ethanol production. David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds, said in a statement, ?The adoption of Enogen grain by U.S. ethanol producers can unleash a cascade of efficiency and environmental benefits industrywide.?

The Center for Food Safety argued that ?it is irresponsible to engineer corn for fuel use at a time when massive diversion of corn to ethanol has played a significant role in raising food prices and thus exacerbating world hunger.?

In the wake of recent announcements that USDA was deregulating genetically engineered alfalfa and partially deregulating GE sugar beets, UCS?s Mellon said, ?The USDA has placed the interests of the biotechnology industry over the interests of food processors and the general public. The agency?s priorities are upside down. Food is far more important than ethanol. USDA needs to stop throwing the food industry under the biotechnology bus.?



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:   USDA APPROVES CORN AMYLASE TRAIT FOR ENOGEN

SOURCE:  Syngenta, Switzerland

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www2.syngenta.com/en/media/mediareleases/en_110211.html

DATE:    11.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Syngenta announced today it has received full deregulation for its corn amylase trait from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is the first genetically modified output trait in corn for the ethanol industry. By enabling expression of an optimized alpha-amylase enzyme directly in corn, dry grind ethanol production can be improved in a way that can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure. Syngenta will sell corn seed with the amylase trait as Enogen corn seed."

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USDA APPROVES CORN AMYLASE TRAIT FOR ENOGEN

- First corn output trait for ethanol industry

- Enables ethanol industry to improve efficiency and profitability

- Significant environmental benefits

Syngenta announced today it has received full deregulation for its corn amylase trait from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is the first genetically modified output trait in corn for the ethanol industry. By enabling expression of an optimized alpha-amylase enzyme directly in corn, dry grind ethanol production can be improved in a way that can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure. Syngenta will sell corn seed with the amylase trait as Enogen corn seed.

?Enogen corn seed offers growers an opportunity to cultivate a premium specialty crop. It is a breakthrough product that provides U.S. ethanol producers with a proven means to generate more gallons of ethanol from their existing facilities,? said Davor Pisk, Chief Operating Officer. ?Enogen corn also reduces the energy and water consumed in the production process while substantially reducing carbon emissions.?

Enogen corn seed will be available from the coming growing season. This year, Syngenta plans to work with a small number of ethanol plants and corn growers in close proximity and prepare for larger scale commercial introduction in 2012. Production of Enogen corn will be managed by Syngenta using a contracted, closed production system.

The corn amylase trait in Enogen has already been approved for import into Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia and Taiwan, and for cultivation in Canada.

Syngenta is one of the world?s leading companies with more than 26,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information about us please go to www.syngenta.com.

Enogen? and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company.



                                  PART 5

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TITLE:   WORLD?S FIRST GENETICALLY ENGINEERED BIOFUELS CORN THREATENS CONTAMINATION OF FOOD-GRADE CORN

SOURCE:  The Center for Food Safety, USA (CFS)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/2011/02/11/worlds-first-genetically-engineered-biofuels-corn-threatens-contamination-of-food-grade-corn/

DATE:    11.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The Center for Food Safety criticized an announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will approve the world?s first genetically engineered crop designed specifically for biofuel production. The Center maintains that this GE ?biofuels corn? will contaminate food-grade corn, and has not been properly assessed for potential adverse effects on human health, the environment, or farmers? livelihoods."

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WORLD?S FIRST GENETICALLY ENGINEERED BIOFUELS CORN THREATENS CONTAMINATION OF FOOD-GRADE CORN

Impacts on Human Health, Environment, and Farmers Not Fully Assessed

DESPITE RISING GLOBAL FOOD PRICES, OBAMA ADMINISTRATIONCONTINUES MISGUIDED BIOFUELS AGENDA

The Center for Food Safety criticized an announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will approve the world?s first genetically engineered (GE) crop designed specifically for biofuel production. The Center maintains that this GE ?biofuels corn? will contaminate food-grade corn, and has not been properly assessed for potential adverse effects on human health, the environment, or farmers? livelihoods.

?The USDA has once again put the special interests of the biotechnology and biofuels industries above the clear risks to our nation?s food system,? said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety. ?The Obama Administration is well aware of the costly effects that Starlink corn contamination had on farmers and the food industry, and now it is poised to repeat the same mistake.?

The GE corn ? known as Event 3272 ? is genetically engineered to contain high levels of a heat-resistant and acid-tolerant enzyme derived from exotic, marine microorganisms. The enzyme breaks down starches into sugars, the first step in conversion of corn to ethanol, and has not been adequately assessed for its potential to cause allergies, a key concern with new biotech crops. In fact, leading food allergists consulted by CFS indicated that Syngenta?s assessment of the potential allergenicity of this enzyme was inadequate, and called for more careful evaluation. Agronomists suggest that unharvested corn will deposit large quantities of this enzyme in the soil, which could adversely affect soil carbon cycling. At present, ethanol plants add a different and familiar version of this enzyme to accomplish the same purpose. The corn was developed by Syngenta, the Swiss agrichemical and biotechnology firm.

?Syngenta?s biofuels corn will inevitably contaminate food-grade corn, and could well trigger substantial rejection in our corn export markets, hurting farmers? said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety

Though this industrial corn is supposed to be used only for domestic ethanol plants, Syngenta has sought import approvals in nations to which the U.S. exports corn. These approvals are being sought because Syngenta knows that food-grade corn shipments will inevitably be contaminated with Event 3272, and hopes to thereby avoid liability for such episodes. While some markets have granted import approvals, South Africa denied import clearance on health grounds in 2006. Whatever the import policies of governments, corn traders might well test and reject U.S. corn supplies contaminated with industrial corn that contains a potentially allergenic enzyme.

USDA acknowledges that serious concerns about food system contamination remain, yet deregulated the GE corn anyway, citing a Syngenta-led ?advisory council? and so-called ?closed-loop? system for amylase corn. That Syngenta ?invited USDA to participate? in this Council is not consoling to farmers, consumers or food companies who remember the Starlink corn debacle. In addition, Syngenta?s capacity for and commitment to stewardship are called into question by past mishaps. From 2001 to 2004, the company accidentally sold seed of an unapproved GE corn variety (Bt10) to American farmers, a variety which contained an antibiotic-resistance marker gene for resistance to ampicillin, an important human antibiotic, presenting the risk of exacerbating the serious medical problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

?The resemblance to StarLink is uncanny,? continued Freese. ?Much like StarLink, Syngenta?s biofuels corn poses allergy concerns and is not meant for human food use. It?s hard to believe that USDA has forgotten the substantial harm StarLink caused to farmers and the US food industry, but apparently it has.?

StarLink was a GE corn variety approved only for animal feed and industrial use because leading food allergists thought it might cause food allergies if used in human foods. Despite measures to keep StarLink separate from food-grade corn, it contaminated the human food supply in 2000-2001. Hundreds reported allergic reactions they believe were linked to StarLink. Food companies recalled over 300 corn-based products, export markets sent back StarLink-contaminated corn shipments, and farmers suffered substantial economic losses as a result. Seventeen state Attorneys General sued StarLink?s developer, Aventis CropScience, to partially recover damages.

The Center also believes it is irresponsible to engineer corn for fuel use at a time when massive diversion of corn to ethanol has played a significant role in raising food prices and thus exacerbating world hunger. Leading food experts have blamed excessive conversion of corn to ethanol for exacerbating the world food crisis by driving up prices of corn and other staples. The World Bank reported an 83% rise in food prices from 2005 to 2008, and estimates that 100 million additional people have been pushed into hunger and poverty as a result. USDA data show that 23% of US corn (3 billion bushels) was converted to ethanol in 2007, jumping to over 30% (3.7 billion bushels) in 2008, with further increases expected as more ethanol refineries are constructed.

The Center is currently reviewing all materials related to today?s decision and is planning litigation.

# # #

The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents over 175,000 members across the nation.



                                  PART 6

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TITLE:   NCGA PLEASED WITH FULL DEREGULATION OF CORN AMYLASE

SOURCE:  National Corn Growers Association, USA (NCGA)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://ncga.com/ncga-pleased-full-deregulation-corn-amylase-2-11-11-0

DATE:    11.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The National Corn Growers Association is pleased with the decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to fully deregulate corn amylase (Event 3272) for all markets. [...] Biotechnology has emerged as a key tool that allows growers and now processors to provide more food, feed, fuel and fiber to the world with fewer resources."

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NCGA PLEASED WITH FULL DEREGULATION OF CORN AMYLASE

Feb. 11: The National Corn Growers Association is pleased with the decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to fully deregulate corn amylase (Event 3272) for all markets. APHIS had not found a plant pest risk associated with this event and reported a positive Environmental Assessment.

?Corn amylase is the first processing output trait to be scrutinized by our regulatory system,? said Bart Schott, NCGA president and a grower from Kulm, N.D. ?The potential importance of output traits to growers and industry will only increase as other output traits are developed.?

Biotechnology has emerged as a key tool that allows growers and now processors to provide more food, feed, fuel and fiber to the world with fewer resources.

?All output traits will be valued-added crops that have the potential to allow growers to raise a product that could be beneficial to their farms in ways that are not possible right now,? said Chad Blindauer, chairman of NCGA?s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team and a farmer in Mitchell, S.D. ?We are pleased the U.S. regulatory system continues to provide growers with planting choices for their operations.?

Corn amylase is approved in Japan, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Amylase was found to be safe for food and feed by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007.



                                  PART 7

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TITLE:   NAMA DISAPPOINTED WITH USDA DECISION TO DEREGULATE 3272 AMYLASE CORN

SOURCE:  North American Millers? Association, USA (NAMA)

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.namamillers.org/PR_Amylase_Corn_02_11_11.html

DATE:    11.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The North American Millers? Association is disappointed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s decision today to deregulate Syngenta?s 3272 Amylase Corn Trait without conditions. USDA failed to use its authority to consider the petition for deregulation as one for the production of a plant made industrial product that would have provided for a more thorough scientific review. Syngenta?s own scientific data released last month shows if this corn is co-mingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance."

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NAMA DISAPPOINTED WITH USDA DECISION TO DEREGULATE 3272 AMYLASE CORN

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? February 11, 2011 ? The North American Millers? Association (NAMA) is disappointed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s (USDA) decision today to deregulate Syngenta?s 3272 Amylase Corn Trait without conditions. USDA failed to use its authority to consider the petition for deregulation as one for the production of a plant made industrial product that would have provided for a more thorough scientific review. Syngenta?s own scientific data released last month shows if this corn is co-mingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance.

?USDA has failed to provide the public with sufficient scientific data on the economic impacts of contamination on food production, or information on how USDA will ensure Syngenta?s compliance with a stewardship plan,? said Mary Waters, President of NAMA. Syngenta?s 3272 Amylase Corn Trait contains a powerful enzyme that breaks down the starch in corn rapidly, a cost saving function for ethanol production. If it should enter the food processing stream, the same function that benefits ethanol production will damage the quality of food products like breakfast cereals, snack foods, and battered products.

?NAMA has been a strong supporter for the development of food biotechnology as a tool that can improve product quality and increase domestic production to meet growing domestic and world food demand,? she continued. ?With proper analysis and oversight, the introduction of output traits can be beneficial to the entire food chain.?

NAMA is the trade association representing 43 companies that operate 170 wheat, oat and corn mills in 38 states and Canada. Their collective production capacity exceeds 160 million pounds of product each day, more than 95 percent of the total industry production



                                  PART 8

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TITLE:   USDA APPROVES USE OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN FOR ETHANOL

SOURCE:  Friends of the Earth USA, USA

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.foe.org/usda-approves-use-genetically-engineered-corn-ethanol

DATE:    11.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The USDA deregulated the crop, meaning it is not subject to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement or any restrictions on where and how it can be planted. Eric Hoffman [...] warned, ?This new strain of genetically engineered corn is not meant for human consumption, but, as we learned in the StarLink corn fiasco, contamination is bound to happen. The USDA decision threatens the safety of our food supply and the biodiversity of American agriculture.?"

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USDA APPROVES USE OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CORN FOR ETHANOL

Decision risks contamination of human food supply and threatens environment

Obama administration criticized for reckless boosting of dirty corn ethanol industry

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it has approved a form of genetically engineered corn created by the biotechnology corporation Syngenta Seeds, Inc. for use in ethanol production.

The USDA deregulated the crop, meaning it is not subject to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement or any restrictions on where and how it can be planted.

Eric Hoffman, biotechnology policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, criticized the USDA?s decision as ?an irresponsible move that puts the interests of the biotechnology and polluting corn ethanol industries above public health and our environment.?

Hoffman warned, ?This new strain of genetically engineered corn is not meant for human consumption, but, as we learned in the StarLink corn fiasco, contamination is bound to happen. The USDA decision threatens the safety of our food supply and the biodiversity of American agriculture.?

Eleven years ago, Friends of the Earth discovered that StarLink corn, which was not approved for human consumption, had contaminated the U.S. food supply. This discovery resulted in the recall of tens of millions of supermarket items. In 2003, a group of farmers was awarded a $110 million settlement due to the loss of foreign markets because of StarLink contamination.

Syngenta engineered its corn variety to more easily break down corn starch for ethanol production.

Kate McMahon, biofuels campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth, noted, ?This type of genetically engineered corn would have no reason to exist if it were not for the massive mandate for biofuels consumption passed by Congress in 2007.?

The Renewable Fuel Standard, the law passed by Congress in 2007, requires the consumption of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, 15 billion gallons of which is projected to be met with corn ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a report detailing the harmful impacts that this law continues to have on water, soil and air quality.

McMahon concluded, ?The Obama administration is giving the green light to dirty and dangerous forms of corn ethanol despite significant health, food security and environmental concerns. Instead of continuing to risk the health of people and the planet, we should reexamine the existence of the biofuel mandate.?

Friends of the Earth and our network of grassroots groups in 76 countries fight to create a more healthy, just world. Our current campaigns focus on clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.