Traces of unapproved GMO trait found in U.S. corn
By Lisa Shumaker
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Traces of an unapproved genetically modified trait were found in U.S. corn planted in 2006 and 2007 but the grain poses no threat to food or feed safety, said the U.S Agriculture Department on Friday.
The 2008 corn crop will not be affected when it is planted this spring across the United States, the world's largest corn exporter.
The unapproved GMO trait, known as Event 32, was found in approximately three seeds per 1,000 in Herculex RW and Herculex XTRA Rootworm Protection corn samples. The Herculex brand is made by Dow AgroSciences LLC, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Co.
Dow reported the discovery to the government on January 25, said Cindy Ragin, spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
"We took steps to investigate the information that was submitted to us by Dow," she said. "We don't think our trading partners will stop corn trade with the United States. There are no food or feed safety concerns."
Biotech crops are widely accepted in the United States, with GMO crops found on 73 percent of U.S. corn acres in 2007, according to USDA data. GMO seeds can improve yields, withstand herbicides and repel pests.
Other parts of the world, especially Europe, have been reluctant to accept GMO food due to concerns about dangers to the environment and human health.
DOW RECALLED SEED SHIPPED IN 2008
Dow said the GMO contamination originated with a small research plot, according to a news release on its Web site.
Farmers planted 53,000 acres with the affected seed in 2007, Dow told APHIS. The total U.S. corn acreage last year was 93 million acres.
The seed was inadvertently sold to farmers by Dow AgroSciences' affiliate Mycogen Seeds.
The unapproved GMO trait produces proteins that are identical to an approved trait, APHIS said. The approved trait is also permitted by several foreign countries.
Dow recalled the affected seed that was shipped to farmers for the 2008 planting season.
Grain traders said the discovery would not affect U.S. corn sales.
"Demand is too strong and alterative suppliers too few," said a grain trader. "But it could make it more difficult if there are new testing and analysis requirements. And it certainly gives us another black eye."
The trader was referring to an incident in the fall of 2000 when a biotech corn called StarLink, approved for use only as animal feed, was found in the human food chain, sparking a nationwide recall of taco shells and corn products foods from grocery shelves.
The detection led several countries to temporarily ban imports of U.S. corn, including Japan, the top U.S. corn buyer.
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)