GMO-Ethanol Corn Contaminates Non-GMO White Corn Used in Tortillas
Enogen, a genetically modified corn for ethanol production, has contaminated non-GMO white corn grown in Nebraska and used to make flour for tortillas and other products.
According to Derek Rovey, owner of Rovey Specialty Grains in Inland, Nebraska, a few of his contract farmers who grow non-GMO white corn had their crops contaminated by Enogen corn.
"We've had some growers who've had some problems [with Enogen]. Their corn was right next to Enogen fields," said Rovey.
Enogen's GMO trait was detected in the white corn using GMO strip tests, said Rovey.
He also said that flour made using his company's white corn tested positive for Enogen last summer.
Enogen GMO corn can contaminate food corn through cross pollination in the field or improper segregation during grain handling.
B.J. Katzberg, a corn seed dealer for Pioneer Hi-Bred, said one of his customer farmers had to abandon 25,000 bushels of corn due to Enogen contamination. He also knows of other farmers who've had Enogen contamination of their non-GMO white corn, including one who had to remove 600 feet of his cornfield and sell it to an ethanol plant.
Farmers whose white corn crops are GMO-contaminated face market rejection and lost income, as they have to sell their corn to a cheaper market such as those for animal feed or, ironically, ethanol.
Jim Clark, owner of Clark Specialty Grains in Gothenberg, Nebraska, also knows of farmers who've had contamination problems with Enogen corn.
"A farmer has a contract, delivers the corn and Enogen is detected; the corn must be sold for feed. It's a nightmare," he said.
"Will Ruin Corn for Milling"
Enogen is genetically engineered with an enzyme that converts starches in corn to sugars, the first step in the process of making corn ethanol. The problem is that Enogen could mix with corn grown for food and break down its starches and ruin the corn for processing, which would lead to crumbly corn chips and soggy cereals.
It would only take one kernel of Enogen corn mixed with 10,000 kernels of food corn to ruin the food processing abilities of food corn, according to the North American Millers Association.
In a 2013 article in the Organic & Non-GMO Report, Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain, predicted problems with Enogen.
"This will ruin corn for milling," said Clarkson, whose company sells non-GMO and organic corn to food processors and millers. "The ethanol industry is happy but other industries are seriously undermined by this corn."
When asked about contamination problems experienced by the Nebraska farmers, Syngenta claimed in a statement that it "has never had a verified incident." The company said it has been committed to provide Enogen technology in a way that "respects other uses of the crop and other corn growers" and works "proactively with growers and industry to avoid potential conflicts."
Syngenta said Enogen is grown in a closed-loop system with contracted growers that follow a comprehensive stewardship program to prevent commingling. For example, Syngenta developed a purple tracer that offers growers a visual way to ensure grain is properly segregated from planting to delivery.
Ron Lowery, an expert in crop nutrition and management, said Syngenta is working to be good stewards of Enogen corn. But he also said that the GMO corn "has negative possibilities for non-GMO and organic corn growers and for the baking and milling industry."
Those negative possibilities are likely to increase as production of both white non-GMO corn and Enogen corn increase in Nebraska.
"There are a lot of ethanol plants and lots of white corn. And those don't mix," said Joel Starr, an organic farmer in Hastings, Nebraska. "That equals a trainwreck."
Connection to Bad Masa Flour Problem in California?
Several people also suspect that Enogen GMO corn may be linked to problems with masa flour in California. According to media reports, scores of people reported problems with flour purchased at Amapola Market, a Hispanic grocery chain in Los Angeles. They said the tamales they made from the flour—a Christmas tradition for Hispanic families—were gooey, fell apart and even made some people sick.
Amapola Vice President Juan Galván said the bad flour affected thousands of people. The problem was traced to a shipment of 120,000 pounds of white corn delivered to Amapola right before Christmas.
"The starch content is obviously different in this corn," Galván said. "Tamales don't bind. When you make the product, it falls apart."
This is the kind of effect that Enogen corn would have on food corn. In fact, Rovey said the same thing happened with white corn flour sold to one of his retail California customers last summer, though on a much smaller scale than the Amapola incident.
"It was a similar type of product—flour to make tamales," he said. "We tested it and it came back with the Enogen trait."
As a result, Rovey believes Enogen corn also caused Amapola's masa problem.
Katzberg is also convinced Enogen ruined Amapola's masa flour. "Yes, it is the problem. The enzyme breaks down the starch and disallows the product to cook through, so the tamales never finished."
However, testing has not been conducted to confirm the presence of the Enogen trait in Amapola's flour.
Enogen reminds Clark of StarLink, a GMO corn, which was approved for feed use only, but was later found in 300 food products, leading to a multimillion dollar food recall, along with multiple lawsuits in the early 2000s.
"It has a flavor of Starlink," Clark said. "We were told it wasn't going to get into food, but it did."
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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