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Fouling our nest. Archive in ecology.

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Fouling our nest. Archive in ecology.

Posted by Walt Stoll on February 01, 2003 at 09:40:39:

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Farm group says USDA put bad corn into feed chain

DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Iowa farmers and an
environmental group on Thursday charged the U.S. government with
selling a problem supply of genetically engineered corn to a feed
company despite complaints that the corn had caused hormonal
problems in pigs.

The Iowa Farmers Union (IFU) and Friends of the Earth sent a letter
on Thursday to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman,
asking the USDA to bar use of the corn in human or animal food "as
long as the cause of reproductive failure in swine is unresolved."

But a USDA spokesman told Reuters the corn had been tested and found
to be safe.

More than 20 farmers have complained over the last two years about
sows that ate the corn developing pseudopregnancy, exhibiting signs
of pregnancy for a full term without carrying a fetus. The corn is
being tested to see if it caused or contributed to the problems, the
groups said.

They complained on Thursday that despite the potential problems, the
U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation sold 950 bushels of the suspect
corn on Jan. 9 to the G&R Grain and Feed Company in Portsmouth, Iowa.

"They thought they could sell a minute amount and blend it in with
other corn and the farmers would accept it," said Iowa Farmers Union
representative Lori Sokolowski.

"We felt that further scientific testing needed to be done for USDA
to determine if this ... is a risk. But they aren't waiting for the
testing to be done."

USDA spokesman Wayne Baggett said USDA's Farm Service Agency "had
samples drawn and submitted for grading. The grading showed it (the
corn) was saleable."

Baggett said USDA then had the tests reviewed by Iowa State
University veterinary and grain quality experts. "They reviewed the
test results and determined that the corn would not be expected to
affect swine."

In August, a USDA researcher wrote "one possible cause" of problems
with sows "may be the presence of an unanticipated, biologically
active, chemical compound within the corn."

"Why would USDA Secretary Veneman allow her Department to sell this
corn to a feed company before finishing a scientific investigation
to learn if it is harmful to pigs or other farm animals?" said IFU's
Chris Peterson in a statement issued Thursday. "We want sound
science to avoid reproductive problems in Iowa's swine herds.
Independent hog farmers have told us that this problem could be the
final blow to their farms."

The sows in question had all eaten a genetically modified corn, some
of which was also found contaminated with a type of mold.
Researchers have not yet determined what about the corn could cause
the hormonal changes, but have not been able to rule out the corn as
the cause, the farmers union said.

"Their hormones are all messed up. The veterinarians couldn't figure
out what was wrong with the sows," said Sokolowski

Friends of the Earth, an activist group generally opposed to biotech
crops, said it had been corresponding for months with the USDA on
this matter. A letter from the Grain Inspection, Packers and
Stockyards Administration dated Oct. 29 said "scientists are testing
the corn to determine if it contains a novel toxin that might impact
swine production," but no final determination had ever been
communicated.

The farmers union and Friends of the Earth acknowledged that
researchers at Iowa State University have said that genetically
engineered Bt corn is not the cause of swine reproductive failures
experienced by numerous local farmers.

But they said, research has not not concluded whether some other
aspect of the corn was causing the problems.

The USDA has about 22,000 bushels of the suspect corn, having
obtained it as collateral on a loan to the operators of a Harlan,
Iowa, farm.

The groups said the FSA attempted in late 2002 to sell the corn for
ethanol production but it was rejected by a local processor.

"When there is a mysterious problem that could affect the fate of
farmers, our health and the environment, we need answers - not
attempts to sweep it under the rug like the USDA has done," said
Friends of the Earth spokesman Larry Bohlen.


Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
PO Box 55699
Seattle, WA 98155
Tel: 425-771-4049
Fax: 603-825-5841
E-mail: mailto:label@thecampaign.org
Web Site: http://www.thecampaign.org


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