Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Review of SmartStax Corn Urged After Court Ruling

The hurried review and approval this summer by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Monsanto’s SmartStax genetically modified corn has now been called into question by the late September federal court ruling against a genetically modified, herbicide-resistant strain of sugar beets, according to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a broad-based coalition of nearly 300 faith-based investors with over $100 billion in invested capital.

In March 2008, ICCR led a Web-based campaign targeting 63 leading U.S. restaurant, food, beverage and candy companies – including such household names as McDonald’s, Campbell Soup, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Sara Lee, PepsiCo, Wendy’s and Hershey’s – urging them to weigh in against the planting of genetically modified sugar beets. More than 54,200 emails were sent to companies by consumers participating in the ICCR campaign. The genetically modified sugarbeet crop would be used to make the sugar contained in thousands of the most widely consumed food products in the U.S.

On September 21, 2009, Federal Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the government illegally approved the “Roundup-Ready” genetically modified, herbicide-resistant strain of sugar beets without adequately considering the chance they will contaminate other beet crops, a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled.

ICCR Executive Director, Laura Berry said: “This is a major vindication for the investors and members of ICCR that have alerted companies for years that the regulatory oversight system for genetically engineered foods is weak and does not protect food companies from potential liabilities. We know that food companies rely almost exclusively on the oversight of USDA, EPA and FDA, regarding genetically modified organism (GMO) products. It appears that food companies, and the public, are not being well served.”

A common misconception is that FDA “approval” is a safety assessment. The FDA, however, relies on safety data provided by the owner of the new genetically modified (GM) trait in it in “consultation” with the agency. The FDA’s approval letter to the applicant makes clear that all risk arising from the GM product remains with the applicant.

ICCR Board Chair Margaret Weber said: “The recent ruling by Federal District Judge White that the US Department of Agriculture failed to do an adequate environmental assessment prior to approval of planting GMO-sugar beets, is a high profile reminder of the weaknesses in the approval process. It raises questions about the recent and inadequate approval by EPA of SmartStax without public notification of opportunity to comment. SmartStax is a complex genetically engineered corn with a total of 8 inserted genes. The most inserted genes in previous approvals was three.”

SmartStax is jointly developed and marketed by Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto. SmartStax was approved by the EPA this summer after a rushed review process.

The sample letter text provided to consumers visiting the ICCR campaign Web site read as follows: “As a consumer, I am writing to urge your company to publicly oppose the spring 2008 planting of genetically modified sugar beets in the United States. You have the power to tell agribusiness firms that you won’t buy sugar made from genetically modified sugar beets. You should know that I am among the more than 50 percent of Americans who avoid genetically modified foods if given a choice. That means that if you publicly announce that your company will NOT use sugar from genetically modified sugar beets, I will be more likely to spend my hard-earned money with you. If you decide to use genetically modified sugar, I will avoid your products. And I would take that one step farther: If you fail to label your food or beverage as containing genetically modified sugar, I will have to operate on the assumption that it does contain the product … and I will avoid it just to be sa
fe. I am a big believer in consumers getting good information and having real choices. I do not want to be ‘forced’ to eat genetically modified sugar either because it is sneaked into my food on an undisclosed basis or because it is added into virtually all food and beverages.”


The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility ( is a coalition of nearly 300 faith-based institutional investors representing over $100 billion in invested capital. ICCR members bridge the divide between morality and markets by envisioning a civic economy that integrates ethical, environmental and social values. Inspired by faith, committed to action, ICCR members work to build a just and sustainable global community.

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