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Report finds problems with widespread field testing of transgenic crops

(June 19, 2001 – CropChoice news) – The Public Interest Research Group last week released a report detailing the scale of field testing of transgenic crops in the United States and the risks this poses both to farmers’ economic well-being and to the environment.

The report charges that the USDA has generally served as a "rubber stamp for applications to conduct field tests. Only 4% of applications to conduct field testing have been rejected, and those that have been rejected were for reasons such as incomplete applications or other minor paperwork errors."

Highlights of the report are:

"o USDA authorized 28,892 field test sites of genetically engineered organisms through 2000.
o As of January 2001, the ten states and territories that have hosted the most field test sites are: Hawaii (3,275), Illinois (2,832),Iowa (2,820), Puerto Rico (2,296), California (1,435), Idaho (1,060), Minnesota (1,055), Nebraska (971), Wisconsin (918),and Indiana (886).
o As of January 2001, 9 states and territories have hosted ten or fewer field test sites. They are Nevada (0), New Hampshire (0), Vermont (0), Virgin Islands (0), Rhode Island (3), Alaska (5), Utah (6), Massachusetts (7),and West Virginia (10).
o The range for the remaining states is between 20 and 830.
o The universities submitting the most requests for permits are University of Idaho (78), Iowa State (68), Rutgers (65), and University of Kentucky (50).
o From 1987 through 2000 inclusive, Monsanto (or a now wholly-owned subsidiary) applied to conduct the most field tests every year.
o In a snapshot of the rapid industry consolidation among companies investing in genetically engineered crops, of the top 10 institutions applying to conduct field tests in 1995, 7 have now merged into 2 companies (Monsanto and DuPont).
o The percentage of field tests being conducted with introduced genes considered to be "Confidential Business Information" has increased nearly every year, from 0% in 1987 to 65.4% in 2000."

The report recommended independent safety tests of transgenic foods to ensure that they are safe for the environment and humans, labeling of all such foods and responsibility on the part of biotechnology companies for any harm that these products cause.

To see the report, go to www.pirg.org/ge/press/raisingrisk