Syngenta Says It Sold Wrong Biotech Corn
By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page E01
Swiss biotech firm Syngenta AG said yesterday that over a four-year period it inadvertently sold U.S. farmers an unapproved strain of genetically modified corn seed that may have also entered the food supply and international export channels.
Syngenta, as well as three federal regulatory agencies investigating the sales, cautioned that the mistake posed no health risks because the unapproved strain is virtually identical, genetically, to an approved strain of corn seed that the company markets.
The firm said the amount of unapproved corn planted from 2001 until it discovered and reported the mistake to regulators last December was "very little," amounting to 37,000 acres out of the 320 million acres planted during that period across the United States.
Despite the small amount of corn involved, as well as the lack of public health risk, industry observers said Syngenta's problems would likely stoke long-simmering concerns over the biotech industry's ability to control the technology.