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Feds Ignore Evidence that Biotech Corn Can Produce Allergies

David Schubert, researcherSAN DIEGO, California, November 16, 2004 (ENS) — Evidence that food allergies may be caused by corn genetically modified to produce its own insecticides has been ignored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a peer-reviewed scientific paper published by two U.S. scientists today.

The paper, “Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods”, documents fundamental flaws in how biotech companies test and the U.S. government regulates genetically modified crops. The authors raise serious questions about whether biotech foods, which have been on the market since 1994, are in fact safe, as claimed by the biotech industry and U.S. regulators. It is published in “Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews.”

Lead author Dr. David Schubert is on the faculty of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies in San Diego, where he is head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory and specializes in molecular genetics, cell biology, and protein chemistry.

“One thing that surprised us,” he said, “is that U.S. regulators rely almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech crop developer, and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review.”

Dr. David Schubert is head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory Salk Institute of Biological Studies in San Diego, California. (Photo courtesy Salk Institute)

Instead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a voluntary consultation process when deciding whether or not permit marketing of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Companies that voluntarily consult with the FDA sometimes fail to respond to FDA requests for additional information. The FDA reviews ìsummary data,î not full studies, making a critical review impossible, the authors say. The FDA does not approve genetically modified crops as safe. The crop developers are made responsible for the safety of their products.

In addition, the authors found, when testing does take place, researchers use “surrogate GM proteins” for testing rather than the genetically modified plant-produced proteins that people actually consume.

The paper includes a comprehensive case study of two types of insecticide-producing genetically modified corn – Monsanto’s MON810 variety and Syngenta’s Bt11 variety. The study demonstrates how flawed testing and regulation permitted these varieties onto world markets despite evidence that they could cause food allergies.