Daily News Archive

Environmentalists Urge President to Ban Drug Production in Genetically Engineered Food Crops
(from November 22, 2002)

In a letter faxed to President Bush on November 20, Greenpeace, the Center for Food Safety, National Family Farm Coalition, and several other national organizations urged the President to ban open-field planting of genetically engineered drug crops, and to prohibit drug production in food crops because it risks contaminating our nation's food supply. See today's Photo Story.

Drug companies are growing corn and other food crops that are being genetically engineered with human genes and other foreign DNA to produce pharmaceuticals and industrial enzymes. Such crops are being growing in open-air fields where it can cross-pollinate or mix with corn and other crops intended for the human food supply. Recent news has revealed two known incidents in which food was contaminated with drug corn made by the ProdiGene company. However, there are over 100 different locations of genetically engineered drug crop plantings in the United States.

Earlier this week, two Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner on a silo containing 500,000 bushels of soybeans contaminated by genetically engineered drug-producing corn. The banner read, "This is your food on drugs. Ban genetically engineered drug-crops." Greenpeace publicly demarcated this huge, contaminated food mound to expose the inherent dangers in conducting genetically engineered crop experiments in open fields near food crops.

"The biotech industry is playing genetic roulette with our food," said Margulis."This crazy experiment of growing drugs in one of our nation's most important staple foods must cease immediately. We urge President Bush to take swift action to protect our food."

The genetically engineered drug that contaminated soybean stocks is a protein that is intended to vaccinate pigs. Anthony Laos, CEO of ProdiGene, the company that caused the contamination, admits that no human health tests have been conducted on the pig drug to date. According to Doreen Stabinsky, Staff Scientist for Greenpeace's Genetic Engineering Campaign, "All allergens are proteins, and any food contaminated with the GE drug poses an unacceptable risk to the people who unwittingly eat it."

Environmentalists and scientists, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, have repeatedly warned that growing drug-producing crops in open fields and not in laboratories would inevitably contaminate our food supply. Drug-crops grown on farms across the U.S. today include corn that produces compounds such as untested AIDS and hepatitis B vaccines, a blood clotting agent, and other compounds not meant for human consumption.

"These unregulated drug crops threaten our nation's food security," said Charles Margulis, Genetic Engineering Specialist with Greenpeace. "Even though genetic engineers said it could never happen here, Americans have narrowly escaped eating GE contaminated food twice in three months. We must stop taking chances with untested drug-crops that could poison our corn flakes, tacos,and baby food," said Margulis.

For more information contact: Charles Margulis, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering campaigner at (415)205-0588.