Government kept mum about GM corn’s mistaken identity

Over a four-year period, Swiss biotech giant Syngenta AG inadvertently sold unapproved strains of genetically modified corn seed to U.S. farmers. The corporation claims the sales, which began in 2001, resulted from a case of mistaken identity between two genetically similar varieties of GM corn. Although the company reported the mistake to regulators in December 2004, U.S. officials have stayed mum about it. The news became public yesterday when the journal Nature published an article about the mishap. A Syngenta spokesflack confirmed that a relatively small amount of the seed was planted, but said that most of the resulting crops will be used as animal feed or for industrial purposes and that any remaining seeds were destroyed or isolated. Kendall Lamkey, head of Iowa State University’s plant-breeding center and a former panel member for the National Academy of Sciences, said it’s the federal government’s secrecy about the matter that’s most alarming: “The whole GMO controversy surrounds a lack of transparency on both [the part of] the companies and regulatory agencies.”