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GMOs Contaminate Mexican Maize but Raise American Yields, Reports Claim

Two newly released reports on genetically engineered crops are causing concern within organic and environmental organizations.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a North American Free Trade Agreement watchdog group, reported earlier this year that 25 percent to 30 percent of all maize exported from the United States to Mexico is transgenic, or genetically engineered. The report, which hasn't been published in the United States but was leaked to Greenpeace International in mid-October, found GE corn growing in Mexico despite a 1998 ban on biotech crops.

The report recommended that all GM maize exported to Mexico be labeled, and that U.S. maize be milled after crossing the border to prevent live seeds from sprouting.

Greenpeace said Mexico is the genetic home of maize, and contamination by GE crops could put the world's food security at risk because genetically pure crops are used to create new varieties to adapt to changing environmental conditions. The CEC report could also affect the United States' pending lawsuit with the World Trade Organization protesting the European Union's moratorium on imports of GE crops.

"It is highly significant that another trade body has now confirmed that there are unique risks to genetically engineered organisms and that there is scientific backing for a precautionary approach on genetic engineering," said Doreen Stabinsky, Greenpeace's genetic engineering campaigner.

The Organic Trade Association is protesting the ramifications of a study released Oct. 20 that concludes that in 2003, widespread planting of six different biotech crops increased U.S. growers' incomes by $1.9 billion, boosted crop yields by 5.3 billion pounds and reduced pesticide use by 46.4 million pounds, when compared with conventional crops.

The study, conducted by the nonprofit research organization National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, reported benefits for farmers in 42 states who planted GE canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soybeans and squash. Between 2001 and 2003, NCFAP found that farmers who grew these GE crops increased their incomes by 27 percent, reduced production costs by 25 percent and reported 41 percent greater yields. Also during that time period, an additional 26 million U.S. acres were planted with GE seeds.

OTA took umbrage with the study's conclusion that reduced pesticide use associated with GE crops and a subsequent reliance on no-till cultivation practices constitutes "environmentally friendly farming." Noting that evidence is mounting that the GE food system is "out of control," OTA urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to institute stricter regulations to prevent GE contamination of organic crops.

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