February 9, 2009

USDA looks at GE corn for ethanol

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could approve the use of genetically-engineered (GE) corn as a feedstock for manufacturing ethanol. The new ethanol corn would also be the first GE industrial crop to be planted on millions of acres a year if authorised. The Agriculture Department recently ended the public comment period for its proposal to permit widespread cultivation of a food crop engineered for biofuel production. Critics say if GE corn is grown on a large scale it will contaminate corn intended for the food and feed supply, exposing people to new engineered proteins that might pose a health risk. The Union of Concerned Scientists urged the department to ban the outdoor production of ethanol corn and all other food crops engineered for industrial or drug purposes to protect the food supply. In November 2008, USDA announced its preliminary decision to grant non-regulated status to Syngenta’s GE ethanol corn. If the department deregulates the new industrial crop, officials say it would mean GE corn would no longer be subject to department oversight and could be grown without restrictions at any scale in the US.




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