Meaningless prohibitions

October 2014

Photo of an anti GMO protester wearing a yellow biohazard suit
Anti-GMO protester
So far, America has single-handedly contaminated the world rice market with an experimental GM variety (herbicide-tolerant LL62, illegal at the time but legalised in a hurry by the US administration), permanently contaminated its own commodity maize supply with a GM variety (insect-resistant StarLink, legally grown for a short time and since banned on safety grounds), and is grappling with two inexplicable contamination-incidents involving two different GM wheat varieties (both herbicide-tolerant, one in Oregon and one in Montana, neither legal anywhere).

Are these real-world warnings being taken to heart?
After recurrent contamination problems from experimental trials of GM pharmaceutical plants APHIS* was stirred into action.

*Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture

Biotech company, Prodigene, was fined a modest $3,500 for the infringements, but the Company and its “successors in interest” were also prohibited from carrying out any future GM releases.

This sounds like tough action to put a company, obviously unable to handle GM pharmaceuticals safely, out of action. However, it has turned out to amount to no more than window-dressing for the regulators.

The founder of Prodigene has, it seems, simply recreated the company under the very different, less commercial-sounding, more respectable-sounding name of “Applied Biotechnology Institute”.

This 'institute' which is actually a company is busy making secret test plantings of GM pharmaceutical crops. Apparently, in May 2014, APHIS granted Applied Biotechnology's request for a confined release of genetically engineered corn designed to produce 22 pharmaceutical and industrial molecules. The US government is allowing the company to keep some of them confidential.

APHIS has asserted that corn is a wind-pollinated crop with no compatible wild relatives and therefore does not threaten surrounding plant life.


Pollen carried by wind can travel a very long way. There may be no wild relatives in their test area, but can anyone be certain that other maize crops, which will end up in the food chain, are being given a wide enough berth?

Applied Biotechnology's track record in its previous incarnation might make you doubt that the Company's taking the necessary precautions.

The harm which contamination from a drug- or chemical-producing GM crop would cause to human, or livestock health is indisputable.

You can decide for yourself how seriously APHIS is taking its job and how well GM crops are regulated in the US.

  • Bill Lambrecht, GMO experiments receive questionable oversight: Central Coast corn used for varied experiments, SFGate, 7.09.14
  • USDA announces close and finding of investigation into the detection of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon in 2013 26.09.14

Photo credit: Anti GMO protester at the 2014 March against Monsanto in Washington DC, US. CC photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr.

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