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Engineered DNA Found In Crop Seeds

Much of the U.S. supply of ordinary crop seeds has become contaminated with strands of engineered DNA, suggesting that current methods for segregating gene-altered seed plants from traditional varieties are failing, according to a pilot study released yesterday.

More than two-thirds of 36 conventional corn, soy and canola seed batches contained traces of DNA from genetically engineered crop varieties in lab tests commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based advocacy group.

... "We were not surprised by this report . . . knowing that pollen travels and commodity grains might commingle at various places and you may have some mixing in transport or storage," said Lisa Dry, communications director for the Biotechnology Industry Association.

Rather than pursue the unrealistic goal of trying to keep seeds completely free of genetic contaminants, she and other industry representatives said, the United States should work harder to get European and other nations -- many of which have balked at engineered crops and foods -- to be more accepting of the technology.

The industry response fails to address the issue. Whether or not Europeans accept GM food has nothing to do with how well we can keep track of where elements of our food supply come from. Heck, whether Americans accept GM food has nothing to do with it -- I personally have no qualms about eating GM food (particularly at the low level of "contamination" found in this study), but I'd like to know what it is I'm eating and that its origin can be traced.

I think Europeans, as well as skeptical Americans, would be more accepting of GM food if the GM industry seemed to be making active efforts to support a traceable food supply and access to food information, rather than obfuscating and blaming skeptics for caring. We could compare the situation to Iraq's WMD. We now know that Saddam had no WMDs, but the fact that he wasn't actively helpful in the search to verify that fact understandably raised suspicions among even doves like myself. Similarly, I think there would be more confidence in the claimed harmlessness of GM food if the GM companies were willing to let consumers make a clear and informed choice rather than telling us to stop worrying and eat whatever we're given.


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