August 16, 2001

LONDON- Marc De Loose from Belgium's Center for Agricultural Research was cited as saying on Thursday his research into gene-spliced soybeans, the world's most widely grown genetically modified crop, had not cast doubt on their safety, dismissing concerns by green groups.
Loose was further cited as saying he and colleagues had found alien gene
fragments in Missouri-based Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready soybeans which had no link with the plant's DNA sequence or the genome of soy, but he said there was no evidence to suggest that the unidentifiable genetic sequence could lead to unknown and unpredictable results, dismissing assertions made by environmental group, Greenpeace, adding, There is no scientific data to support this idea because we checked this sequence in different generations that were on the market and we didn't see any differences. This means that the sequence is stable and all the data concerning safety are still valid in my opinion. There is also no evidence that the sequence causes any expression, so we did not demonstrate that the sequence is expressed...there is no indication that this (soy) might cause any allergy.

Greenpeace said the discovery of the unknown sequence cast doubt over how much Monsanto knew about its product, calling on the UK government to re-examine the genetically modified soy.

De Loose said his work would help educate debate in Europe over whether to approve the sale and use of such crops, stating, In my opinion the most important thing out of this that we can give information and monitor data which can be used in a discussion on GMOs submitted for authorization in the future. Government now has the tools to check the quality of future GMOs.

Kimberly Wilson, a Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner, was quoted as saying in a statement that, Like Dr. Frankenstein, Monsanto has created a new life form but doesn't know what will happen when it's turned loose in the world.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, commenting on the Belgian group's research, said the agency was aware of it and is looking into it.

Monsanto spokesman Bryan Hurley was quoted as saying, This isn't a (food) safety issue. The information about the soybeans were characterized by Monsanto more than a year ago and we have shared that with regulatory authorities throughout the world.

He said the unidentified gene fragments could be the result of DNA being rearranged as a result of the process when the bacterium to make the plants resistant to Roundup Ready soybeans was inserted.

It's been there since the point of the original transformation 10 years ago and throughout all of the safety tests, he said, adding that new high-precision equipment allowed the company to detect the alien fragments. We are better able to see the stars than a hundred years ago. It doesn't mean the stars have changed, just your perspective.... It's the same principle, Hurley said.

Hurley said he did not foresee any loss of consumer confidence in foods produced from gene-altered crops.

As we characterize things better, it doesn't change the fundamental safety questions that are addressed and have for a long time been established, he said.