PANNA: Action Alert: Stop Registration of Bt Crops


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Action Alert: Stop Registration of Bt Crops
August 6, 2001

Note: Comment period extended through September 10, 2001.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently determining whether genetically engineered insecticidal crops should continue to be grown in the United States. Because the permits under which the agency first approved insecticidal corn and cotton expire in 2001, EPA must decide in the near future whether or not -- or under what conditions -- to allow farmers to plant the crops in 2002 and beyond. Genetically Engineered Food Alert urges you to send comments to EPA before August 31, 2001.

To date, all commercialized genetically engineered insecticidal plants produce a type of Bt toxin, one of a family of related molecules produced by a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). To develop what are known as Bt crops, a company clones the insecticidal gene from the bacterium and inserts it into a crop plant. The plant then produces the toxin in most, if not all, parts of the plant through all or most of a growing season.

Many nongovernmental organizations, scientists and farmers around the world are opposed to the use of Bt crops for a variety of reasons including:

* Bt crops pose may pose serious long term risks to butterflies such as Monarchs and the endangered Karner Blue. Monarchs in states such as Minnesota and Iowa are exposed to Bt corn pollen right at the time of their peak migration to Mexico. Insufficient scientific studies have been carried out to show that Bt corn doesn't pose a threat to endangered butterflies like the Karner Blue.

* Bt crops may cause allergic reactions. While the EPA no longer permits pesticidal StarLink corn to be grown due to concerns about its allergenic potential, the Agency has refused to subject other Bt corn varieties to similar scrutiny. This is especially important in light of an EPA-sponsored study which detected antibodies consistent with allergic reactions in farmworkers exposed to Bt sprays.

* Bt crops can contaminate organic and conventional crops. Organic and conventional corn farmers have lost valuable markets because some of their crops were contaminated with genetically engineered corn. Contamination occurs when genetically engineered corn pollen, often carried for miles by the wind, pollinates regular corn. The EPA's analysis has not considered the significant economic impacts of Bt corn on organic farmers and conventional farmers who don't plant genetically engineered crops.

* Widespread use of Bt crops can lead to loss of Bt spray as an effective pest management tool. For more than 50 years, conventional and organic farmers have used Bt in spray form to control insect pests. Toxins in Bt sprays break down rapidly in the environment and do not persist in water or accumulate in the food chain. Now, because of widespread use of Bt crops in which the Bt does not break down and there is increased insect exposure to the toxin, insect resistance could develop and this valuable pest management tool could be lost.

Genetically Engineered Food Alert urges you to tell EPA to end the registrations of Bt crops in the United States. EPA must receive your comments by August 31, 2001.

Send emails to opp-docket@epa.gov, with OPP-00678B in the subject line, or send a letter referencing Docket No. OPP-00678B to:

Ms. Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator
Public Information and Records Integrity Branch
Information Resources and Services Division (7502C)
Office of Pesticide Programs
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460.

Genetically Engineered Food Alert supports the removal of genetically engineered ingredients from grocery store shelves unless they are adequately safety tested and labeled. Genetically Engineered Food Alert founding members include: Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, National Environmental Trust, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network North America, and the State Public Interest Research Groups. The campaign is endorsed by more than 200 scientists, religious leaders, doctors, chefs, environmental and health leaders, as well as farm groups. Find out more about the campaign at http://www.gefoodalert.org.

Source/contact: Bill Freese, Safer Food - Safer Farms Campaign, Friends of the Earth, 1025 Vermont Avenue NW, 3rd floor, Washington DC 20005-6303; phone/fax (301) 985-3011; email billfreese@prodigy.net.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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