Coalition to File Legal Petition Demanding Immediate Halt of Experimental Biopharmaceuticals Grown on Farms
For Immediate Release
November 14, 2002
Mark Helm, 202-783-7400 x102
Biopharmaceutical contamination could be AIDS vaccine or blood thickener. Government concealing information, coalition files Freedom of Information Act to access government documents
Washington-Today, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed a second incident of contamination of a food crop by an experimental genetically engineered crop, engineered to contain a pharmaceutical or industrial chemical, in Iowa. This follows yesterday's announcement that 500,000 bushels of soybeans in Nebraska destined for human consumption have also been quarantined due to biocontamination by a similar crop.
The USDA has refused to reveal what chemical or drug was grown in either crop, but research into the company that produces the biopharmaceutical crops, ProdiGene, reveals that the contaminates could be one of the following:
Aids vaccine -gp120 a glycoprotein
Industrial adhesive-Laccase, an enzyme derived from a fungus
Other biopharm crops reportedly grown by ProdiGene include experimental oral vaccines for hepatitis B and for a pig disease, transmissible gastroenteritis. According to USDA records ProdiGene has received 85 test permits for experimental open-air trials of genetically engineered biopharmaceutical and chemical crops for planting in at least 96 locations. More information on ProdiGene products can be found on the attached document.
"With this latest contamination the government should halt all experimental genetically engineered crops grown on farms," Stated Matt Rand, Biotechnology Campaign Manager for the National Environmental Trust. "If the government continues to develop policies for the biotech industry instead of for the safety of the U.S. food supply it is just a matter of time before one of these experimental crops ends up on our dinner plates," continued Rand.
Today, with the second contamination of an experimental genetically engineered biopharmaceutical crop, the GEFoodAlert coalition announced its intention to file a legal petition to the USDA calling for the immediate halt to all biopharms. Additionally with the US government not revealing pertinent information on the contamination incidents, the Center for Food Safety, a member of the coalition, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petition to access all government documents on ProdiGene. A similar FOIA was submitted by Friends of the Earth in April 2001and the USDA declined to provide permit information.
Last week members of GEFoodAlert coalition met with the USDA regarding the open farm testing of biopharmaceuticals and asked the USDA if contamination testing was taking place. The USDA flatly denied that any contamination testing was being performed.
"The government clearly knew about this contamination weeks ago and chose not to reveal the information to the public, but instead worked behind closed doors with the industry to try to cover this up," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety.
For a comprehensive report on biopharm, see www.gefoodalert.org. The GEFoodAlert is a coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups that supports the removal of genetically engineered ingredients from grocery store shelves unless they are adequately safety tested and labeled.