Home » Biotechnology »Health »News » Currently Reading:

Transgenic High-Lysine Corn LY038 Withdrawn After EU Raises Safety Questions

November 10, 2009 Biotechnology, Health, News No Comments

Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson

A Monsanto/Cargill joint venture has quietly withdrawn its application for high-lysine transgenic corn after EU regulators on the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) GMO panel raised questions about its safety for human consumption.

Made by Renessen LLC, LY038 would have been the only high lysine corn available and had already been approved for food use in Japan, S. Korea, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and for cultivation in the US, although it has never been grown. Although LY038 is not intended for human consumption, the likelihood of genetic cross-contamination means that EU food approval was necessary for commercial growing of the crop anywhere.

Withdrawal therefore means that transgenic high-lysine corn has been abandoned as a commercial proposition, at least for the foreseeable future. Withdrawal was not announced by any of the companies involved but is indicated on the GMO Compass website and confirmation was obtained by the campaigning group GM-free Cymru. In a letter obtained by GM-free Cymru, Renessen claims that withdrawal was “for commercial reasons”. These were not specified and none of the commercial swine experts we contacted could tell us what those reasons might be.

LY038 corn contains the enzyme DHDPS (dihydrodipicolinate synthase) from Corynebacterium glutamicum, which leads to the accumulation of approximately 50-fold higher levels of free lysine in the maize kernel. It is intended as an alternative to lysine supplementation, in particular for pigs feeding on a corn/soymeal- based diet. The market size for lysine was estimated at 450,000 metric tons in 2000.

The specific safety questions raised by the regulators were principally over the safety of LY038 when cooked. LY038 contains very high levels of free lysine. Lysine is known to react on heating with sugars to form chemical compounds called advanced glycoxidation endproducts (AGEs) that are linked to numerous diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Member states, whose comments must be considered by the EFSA GMO panel, decided that further experiments were required before approval could be given. As well as questions over these lysine conjugates, questions were also asked about unexplained chlorosis in experimental trials and unexplained poor performance of chickens fed LY038.

A second category of questions raised was whether appropriate controls were used by the applicant. Some consider that this goes to the heart of the scientific nature of the approval process. The Codex Alimentarius guidelines indicate that an otherwise genetically identical cultivar, minus the transgene, is the appropriate control for a GMO safety experiment. According to Jack Heinemann, director of the The Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) and one of the authors of a critique of LY038 “EFSA enforced the Codex comparator. I have not seen an application since 2002 that met the Codex comparator standard”. No matter what the experiment “ If you don’t have a proper control you can’t draw valid scientific conclusions” concurs Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Withdrawal of LY038 corn will disappoint the industry not only because it is the first GMO to be withdrawn after safety questions were raised but also because withdrawal comes just as the agricultural biotechnology industry is attempting to demonstrate that it can deliver traits other than herbicide resistance and insect resistance. Especially, the industry would like to diversify its portfolio of traits, towards those with value to end-users and away from traits with value only to industrial agriculture. The concern, however, is that these more complex traits may not only prove harder to come by, but, as happened here, also may generate novel and complex safety concerns.

Comment on this Article:







Science News on the Web

Why Independent Science News?

Scientific inventions and ideas shape the future. As science becomes ever more beset by commercial and ideological pressures, there is urgent need for scientific reporting and analysis from an independent, expert, public interest perspective. With this standard, Independent Science News works to shape a future that is biodiverse, just, and healthy for everyone.
More about us...

Sign up to our mailing list

E-mail address:
Name (optional):

Translations

EnglishFrenchGermanItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish

Related News Articles

Many European Pesticide Approvals Are “unlawful” Says EU Ombudsman

GE Soybeans Give Altered Milk and Stunted Offspring, Researchers Find

What Happened to Obama’s Promise to Restore Scientific Integrity?

New Research Links Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Monarch Butterfly Declines

EU Safety Institutions Caught Plotting an Industry “escape route” Around Looming Pesticide Ban

How “Extreme Levels” of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

Can the Scientific Reputation of Pamela Ronald, Public Face of GMOs, Be Salvaged?

No Scientific Consensus on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms

Commentaries

Organic Farmers Are Not Anti-Science but Genetic Engineers Often Are

Elizabeth-Henderson (photo courtesy Audrey Horn)

by Elizabeth Henderson At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation. I …

Unsafe at any Dose? Diagnosing Chemical Safety Failures, from DDT to BPA

US Chemical Production

by Jonathan Latham, PhD Piecemeal, and at long last, chemical manufacturers have begun removing the endocrine-disrupting plastic bisphenol-A (BPA) from products they sell. Sunoco no longer sells BPA for products that might be used by children under three. France has a national ban on BPA food packaging. The EU has banned …

God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and The Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing

crispr-cas9

by Jonathan Latham, PhD For the benefit of those parts of the world where public acceptance of biotechnology is incomplete, a public relations blitz is at full tilt. It concerns an emerging set of methods for altering the DNA of living organisms. “Easy DNA Editing Will Remake the World. Buckle …

Biofuel or Biofraud? The Vast Taxpayer Cost of Failed Cellulosic and Algal Biofuels

The now-bankrupt Kior site in Columbus, Mississippi

By Almuth Ernsting Biofuels consumed today are usually ethanol made from the sugar in sugar cane (or sugar beet) or they may be made from starch in grains. In the US this is mostly corn starch. Alternatively, biodiesel may be made from plant oils such as soybean or canola oil. …

More Commentaries...

Reviews

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

More Reviews...

Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Hide Buttons