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Biotechnology

NAMA supports science that contributes to environmental stewardship, food safety, health and wellness. Biotechnology is one scientific tool that can improve food quality, safety and sanitation; increase production efficiency; advance sustainability; and help meet growing food demand.

A positive development was the May 2012 International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) release of the “Consumer Perceptions of Food Technology” survey. The survey found that consumers support the use of food biotechnology when they consider potential benefits for reducing the impact of food and food production on the environment, and for improving sustainability.

Currently there is no biotech wheat in production. With wheat yield trend lines flat and wheat plantings losing ground to other crops, NAMA believes steps must be taken now to clear the way for the commercialization of biotech wheat as soon as possible. The development and introduction of biotech wheat is a few years away. However, we are excited about the renewed interest and investment in wheat research by several technology firms. Their new research, both conventional and biotech, are the first substantial investments in wheat technology in years.

To advance biotech wheat, NAMA has joined with its counterpart associations of wheat growers and bakers as founding members of the Wheat Innovation Alliance. A WIA governing structure has been agreed to and NAMA has three miller representatives on the board of directors.

As crops are developed through biotechnology with output traits for various uses, it is imperative that technology providers develop a plan for risk assessment, risk management, and risk responsibility. Risk assessment includes the development of adequate scientific data or documentation necessary to evaluate the possible impact on the functionality of existing food and feed processes and products should the crop get into the unintended grain stream.

NAMA was disappointed when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a petition to deregulate Syngenta’s amylase corn without conditions, despite concerns raised by millers, grain handlers and exporters, and food and pet food manufacturers. Concerns were raised after Syngenta provided information that showed a severe adverse impact on food uses of corn at extremely low levels of contamination.

Syngenta has continued to insist on a confidentiality agreement before releasing Enogen for testing by stakeholders. This agreement would preclude sharing results with customers, colleagues, and the government. However, at a June 2012 meeting of the Enogen Advisory Council, data was presented by a food company that tested the trait’s impact on wheat-based foods. The data confirmed the impact on food functionality at very low levels.

NAMA will no longer seek samples for testing and has informed the trait developer we will accept their commitment to keep the trait out of the food supply.

A lateral flow test strip is available for detecting Enogen. It has been performance verified by USDA/GIPSA with a limit of detection (LOD) of 0.25%.

NAMA’s Technical Committee has reviewed the situation and advises:

  1. The ELISA test’s LOD was insufficiently sensitive.
  2. Since millers have not been able to test samples of the corn, we are insufficiently knowledgeable of its possible negative effects on food processes and products.
  3. Testing inbound corn for Enogen would, in essence, make the miller a partner in the stewardship program and potentially liable for damages that may result from the presence of the trait in the food supply. Therefore, we should no longer seek samples for testing and will inform the trait developer we will accept their commitment to keep the trait out of the food supply.

According to Syngenta, 2012 production is approximately 25,000 acres and located on farms near Oakley in northwest Kansas, western Nebraska and near Galva in northwest Iowa. In August, Syngenta announced it has signed agreements to supply Enogen corn to two additional ethanol plants in 2013 –Golden Grain Energy in Mason City (north central Iowa) and Siouxland Ethanol in Jackson (northeast Nebraska).

Going forward, NAMA believes analysis of such functional traits prior to regulatory approval must contemplate risk analysis, risk management and risk responsibility.

Prepared by Jim Bair, Vice President, 202.484.2200, ext. 14, [email protected].

Last updated September 6, 2012

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