I am not surprised to hear GE being compared to a runaway freight train. But today’s comments come from Dow AgroScience representative, Garry Hamlin, not from Greenpeace. Explaining how an unauthorized variety of genetically engineered corn escaped into the environment, Hamlin said:
"Think of a railroad train with all black cars and one blue car, and the blue car is the second from the engine," Hamlin said. "Now, think of another one where the blue car is the fifth from the engine. That's the difference."
Last week’s announcement that US corn was contaminated with an illegal variety never authorized for cultivation demonstrates how difficult it is to stop contamination, once genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment. Dow is seeking to downplay the incident, but In this case, I have to wonder if their comments were reviewed by Dow’s communications team. Most certainly, this recent case of an escaped genetically engineered crop shows once again that governments and industry are on the wrong track altogether with genetically engineered foods.
Reaction muted to latest unapproved biotech event escape
Monday, February 25, 2008, 2:19 PM
by Peter Shinn
Dow AgroSciences on Friday recalled three hybrid corn lines after discovering the seed could contain an unapproved biotech event called Event 32. That biotech event produces the exact same proteins as Herculex corn but is sequenced into the corn differently. Dow spokesperson Garry Hamlin explained the difference to Brownfield this way.
"Think of a railroad train with all black cars and one blue car, and the blue car is the second from the engine," Hamlin said. "Now, think of another one where the blue car is the fifth from the engine. That's the difference. It's the same stuff. It's a different sequence."
According to Hamlin, Dow AgroSciences never pursued regulatory approval of Event 32 because Event 22, which eventually became Herculex corn, was further in the development pipeline. But Hamlin said it appears pollen from one of two test plots of Event 32 got into Herculex corn in 2006 and 2007, though not much.
"If you took a look at the amount of seed that was produced, affected seed or that could have been produced, compared to the U.S. corn production in, say, 2007, you'd be looking at two seeds in a million," Hamlin noted.
And Hamlin added that Dow AgroSciences, because of its own enhanced testing protocols found the Event 32 contamination in this year’s seed before it ever got planted. USDA and EPA issued a joint statement Friday noting that Event 32 produces identical proteins to Herculex corn. For that reason, the government said there’s no risk to human health from the incident.
A spokesperson for USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) told Brownfield that USDA personnel in corn-importing countries have been holding technical discussions with their counterparts in those countries. But the spokesperson said there’s been no negative international reaction to the incident, at least not yet.
There may not be much international customers can do about the incident, in any case. Event 32 didn't get into the 2008 corn crop and it was present in extremely tiny levels in U.S. corn produced in 2006 and 2007. So tiny that Cindy Ragin, spokesperson for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, confirmed to Brownfield that Event 32 would be nearly impossible to find, even when using sophisticated sampling techniques.
"Right," Ragin said. "It would be very difficult because the amount was so small."