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CAST details newest study on safety of biotech crops
By DOUG SCHMITZ
Iowa Correspondent

AMES, Iowa — The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) last month released a new study, which examined the effects that biotechnology-based foods may have had on world population health and food safety.

“The safety and availability of high-quality food and animal feedstuffs are critical to populations worldwide,” said Richard H. Phipps, Task Force Chair Professor of the School of Agriculture, Development and Policy at the University of Reading in Reading, United Kingdom.

“During the last decade, the area of biotechnology-derived crops has increased dramatically from 4-90 million hectares per year, and crop varieties of corn, soybean, cotton, and canola are now widely used and are an important feedstuff in livestock production systems,” he said. “It is essential, therefore, to consider the safety of meat, milk and eggs obtained from animals fed crops derived from modern biotechnology.”

Established in 1972 out of a 1970 meeting sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, CAST assembles, interprets and communicates credible, science-based information regionally, nationally and internationally, to state legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector and the public, as well as U.S. farmers seeking to conduct more in-depth research about their profession.

In addition, CAST, a nonprofit organization made up of an international consortium of 38 board members, represents more than 170,000 member scientists, and an 8-member executive committee responsible for publishing task force reports, commentary papers and issue papers written by scientists from many disciplines.

“These publications and their distribution are fundamental activities that accomplish our mission to assemble, interpret, and communicate credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public,” said John Bonner, CAST executive vice president.

Linda Chimenti, CAST managing scientific editor, who approves projects and recruits the task force to write and review each document, said CAST board members actively participate in the peer review process.

“I facilitate communications and work flow, oversee the editing by the CAST editorial staff, arrange for printing, distribution, and publicity for each new publication,” she said. “CAST has approximately 15 publications in progress simultaneously.”

Written and evaluated by a task force of international scientists from the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States and Brazil, CAST’s latest issue paper, titled Safety of Meat, Milk and Eggs from Animals Fed Crops Derived from Modern Biotechnology, is the fifth in the organization’s nine-part series called Animal Agriculture’s Future through Biotechnology.

The July 12 issue paper provides an overview of regulatory assessments of biotechnology-derived crops and summarizes the empirical data generated for assessing the safety of meat, milk and eggs from animals fed biotechnology-derived crops that express agronomic input traits.

“The information in these CAST papers is important to U.S. farmers because it summarizes information from national and international research that reflects the current science regarding the production and distribution of animal products and the use of biotechnology-produced crops in their production,” Bonner said.

“Information from these papers has been distributed in media articles across the U.S. as well as in Europe, Australia and the United Kingdom,” he said. “These are all areas that have an effect on U.S. farm markets and their policies can affect U.S. agricultural trade.”

According to the latest issue paper’s findings, animal products such as milk, meat and eggs are significant sources of high-quality food for humans and represent approximately one-sixth of their food energy and one-third of their food protein on a global basis.

“Therefore, an important underlying tenet for the scientific assessment of the safety and nutritive value of crops derived from modern biotechnology is based on the question ‘Is the biotechnology-derived crop as safe as a conventional crop?’” a statement about the July 12 report said.

“Safety of Meat, Milk and Eggs from Animals Fed Crops Derived from Modern Biotechnology provides evidence to support a strong affirmative response.”

Bonner said areas of study in CAST’s newest issue paper also include an overview of regulatory assessments for biotechnology-derived crops modified for agronomic input traits, an evaluation of the comparative safety assessment process, results of feeding studies in farm animals, the fate of consumed proteins and DNA, and conclusions and recommendations.

“Results of the most up-to-date research compiled by this international task force conclude that meat, milk and eggs produced by farm animals fed biotechnology-derived crops are as wholesome, safe and nutritious as similar products produced by animals fed conventional crops,” Bonner said. “CAST is pleased to provide this important contribution to the scientific literature on feed safety.”

The full text of the paper may be accessed at www.cast-science.org, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications, and is available in hardcopy for $5 (which includes shipping) by contacting the CAST office in Ames at 515-292-2125.

This farm news was published in the August 23, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

8/23/2006