The GM corn is designed to produce more ethanol from the corn while using less energy and water
- Pressing ahead with Trident, only the UK hasn't noticed: it's time to get rid of nuclear weapons
- As Chipotle goes GMO-free, Monsanto's worst fear is coming true
- Amid the smoke and chaos of 'development', China seeks a return to ancient harmony
- Breast cancer and nuclear power - statistics reveal the link 'they' wanted to hide
GM corn being developed for fuel instead of food
Suzanne Goldenberg, guardian US environment correspondent
16th August, 2011
Campaigners say plants being grown in US may worsen global food crisis, while farmers express cross-contamination fears
US farmers are growing the first corn plants genetically modified for the specific purpose of putting more ethanol in gas tanks rather than producing more food.
Aid organisations warn the new GM corn could worsen a global food crisis exposed by the famine in Somalia by diverting more corn into energy production.
The food industry also opposes the new GM product because, although not inedible, it is unsuitable for use in the manufacture of food products that commonly use corn. Farmers growing corn for human consumption are also concerned about cross-contamination. The corn, developed by a branch of the Swiss pesticide firm Syngenta, contains an added gene for an enzyme (amylase) that speeds the breakdown of starches into ethanol. Ethanol plants normally have to add the enzyme to corn when making ethanol.
The Enogen-branded corn is being grown for the first time commercially on about 5,000 acres on the edge of America's corn belt in Kansas, following its approval by the US Department of Agriculture last February. In its promotional material Syngenta says it will allow farmers to produce more ethanol from the corn while using less energy and water.
Meanwhile, campaigners say the corn will heap pressure on global food supplies and contribute to environmental degradation. They argue Enogen will lead to an increase in the amount of food crops going to fuel, leaving less for human consumption and leading to food price rises. That will lead to food price rises on the global market. 'The temptation to look at food as another form of fuel to use for the energy crisis will exacerbate the food crisis,' said Todd Post of Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger organisation.
Biofuels link to food price rises
Although individual events such as the Somalia famine are caused by a complex combination of factors, several studies have established that the expansion of biofuels has pushed up food prices worldwide, making it harder to afford for the poorest.
A World Bank report released on Tueday says food prices that are now close to their 2008 peak have contributed to the famine in Somalia. Marie Brill, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid warned: 'It's going to put even more pressure on a really tight market. It will be really tempting to farmers to take on this new more efficient ethanol form of corn.'
The food industry is warning of the dangers of contaminating existing corn crops with the new GM corn. The same traits that make the modified corn so attractive to the ethanol industry – the swift breakdown of starches – would be a disaster for the food industry, turning corn chips into shapeless lumps, and stripping the thickening properties from corn starch.
Even a small amount of the amylase corn – one kernel out of 10,000 – could damage food products, according to data supplied to the North American Millers' Association by Syngenta. The organisation, like most food industry groups, has opposed the corn, noting failures to prevent cross-contamination from earlier GM breeds.
The European Union, South Korea, and South Africa have not approved its import.
Enogen also has to catch on among farmers. 'I'm sceptical as a farmer,' said Allen Jasper, who runs a cattle-feed operation near Whitten, Iowa. 'The first thing I'm going to ask is how does it yield. Any time you try and change a corn plant and get it to do something that is not native to the plant you have to be sceptical of the yield.'
Syngenta maintains the corn variety has a high yield, and that it has the appropriate safeguards to prevent cross- pollination. After Kansas, the company plans to expand its growing area to Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and southwest Minnesota.
Farmers will grow the corn under contract to an ethanol production plant, getting a premium over regular corn. Buffer rows of corn will be planted. 'This is a very slow ramp-up. This is not a broad acre crop at this point,' said Paul Minehart, a Syngenta spokesman.
Steve McNinch, of Western Plains Energy, in Kansas, the only ethanol plant to have processed the new corn, said adding a small amount of amylase corn to the mix – about 10 per cent – would increase production by 10 per cent.
This article is reproduced courtesy of the Guardian Environment Network
Public sector should develop GM crops for seed companies, says leading researcher
As controversial UK trials of a potato genetically-modified to be resistant to late blight get underway, we speak to research leader and plant geneticist Professor Jonathan Jones about why he is in favour of an expansion in GM crops
US calls for an end to the EU block on GM and nanotechnology
US officials say they remain ‘surprised and disappointed’ over Europe’s refusal to embrace technologies like genetic modification (GM) and nanotechnology in farming
Africa's Green Revolution 2.0: rejecting agribusiness, pesticides and GM greenwash
A pioneering campaign is challenging industrial agriculture in Africa, returning food sovereignty to the people and empowering women to lead a new movement that rejects the 'pesticide and loan culture' of the first Green Revolution. Chris Milton reports
Exclusive interview Mark Lynas: 'More than half of greens agree with me on GM & nuclear'
Mark Lynas, featured in Channel 4's recent and highly controversial documentary, 'What the green movement got wrong', tells Matilda Lee why he is not the pariah of the eco movement
Revealed: how seed market is controlled by Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow & DuPont
Graphic illustrates how just five biotech giants have increased their control of the global seed market, promoting monoculture farming and making it harder for farmers to find alternative sources of seeds
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.